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Static line jump from the helicopter

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Microlight flying past the Dart Glacier

NEWS / BLOG

Wingsuiting over the Pink Lake (Lake Hillier)

In Febuary 2014 I teamed up with the Red Bull Australia crew & my long time skydive cameraman & buddy Sol Vallis to travel to Esperance, Western Australia in preparation to skydive above one of the natural wonders of the world.

Sited in the Recherche Archipellago in the Southern Ocean off the south coast of Western Australia, lies Middle Island, the site of Lake Hillier, better known as the Pink Lake. This natural phenomanon arises from a dye created by the organisms Dunaliella salina and Halobacteria in this salt water lake to produce the vivid pink colour during the Australian summer.

My jumping crew of Sol Vallis, A.J. Dale & myself flew to Middle Island to meet up with the Red Bull boat crew & representative of the National Parks, already on station at the island.

What an incredible place to see, especially as we begin to get a birds eye view as Sol & myself climb higher in the helicopter before our first jump from 8000 feet. Middle Island starts to look like a tiny insignificant spec in the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean, especially as the wind had been increasing sine our arrival.

I wore a tuxedo for the first jump, clutching a rose while freefalling back to earth as Sol flew above me, snapping glorious shots above the island.

The next four jumps were in my wingsuit, jumping from up to 9000 feet & flying most of the length of the island, into wind to ensure my parachute opens upwind of my small landing area on the beach.

Flying above this small island with it's iconic Pink Lake was something unreal. The brilliant deep blue of the surrounding deep water gave way to a rich tourquois in the shallows, leading to the striking white sandy beach, then the green of the bush & finally the bubble gum pink of the lake.

What a brilliant place to skydive & experience the wonder of nature in all it's amazing glory.

Many thank to the whole team who made this possible.

Red Bull Gives me Wings :)

Happy Valentines Day 2014 from Middle Island at 200 kph
Wingsuiting high above the Southern Ocean
Landing on the glorious white sandy beach of Middle Island
Paratenting under the Red Bull Wigwam

The NZ International Airshow organiser asked me to come up with a stunt for the show. What could be more fun than doing a static line jump with the Red Bull Wigwam event tent, from a helicopter?
By wearing two harnesses, I could jump the tent, fly it for 30 seconds, release it, fall away & still have my full skydive rig to land with my normal, square parachute.

What fun to get in the heli, climb away to 2000' overhead where I throw a drifter (a roll of newspaper with a 10' tail of crepe paper) to assess wind drift. Important when jumping a tent.
The heli climbs to 3000' & runs in, My checks done, I spot the heli into the right location upwind of the landing zone, climb out onto the skid, check again... the step off backwards & watch the lines snake out of the deployment bag, followed by the canopy which flaps as it begins to inflate.The noise of the helicopter & freefall are  replaced with an airy peace while hanging under an unsteerable tent.
At 2500' I pull the release handle while holding the Wigwam's right set of lines, acellerating under a now uninflated tent...kicking.
Time to let the crow off the hook & open my main parachute & land.

This was my first drifter throw, static line jump, roundy jump & cut away for many years. It took me back to my very early days in parachuting.

Such good fun at the show with some fine folk.

Static line jump from the helicopter
A beaautiful deployment
Cutting away the Wigwam...& holding one riser
What a fun way to entertain the crowd
Paratenting under the Red Bull Wigwam

The NZ International Airshow organiser asked me to come up with a stunt for the show. What could be more fun than doing a static line jump with the Red Bull Wigwam event tent, from a helicopter?
By wearing two harnesses, I could jump the tent, fly it for 30 seconds, release it, fall away & still have my full skydive rig to land with my normal, square parachute.

What fun to get in the heli, climb away to 2000' overhead where I throw a drifter (a roll of newspaper with a 10' tail of crepe paper) to assess wind drift. Important when jumping a tent.
The heli climbs to 3000' & runs in, My checks done, I spot the heli into the right location upwind of the landing zone, climb out onto the skid, check again... the step off backwards & watch the lines snake out of the deployment bag, followed by the canopy which flaps as it begins to inflate.The noise of the helicopter & freefall are  replaced with an airy peace while hanging under an unsteerable tent.
At 2500' I pull the release handle while holding the Wigwam's right set of lines, acellerating under a now uninflated tent...kicking.
Time to let the crow off the hook & open my main parachute & land.

This was my first drifter throw, static line jump, roundy jump & cut away for many years. It took me back to my very early days in parachuting.

Such good fun at the show with some fine folk.

Static line jump from the helicopter
A beaautiful deployment
Cutting away the Wigwam...& holding one riser
What a fun way to entertain the crowd

Red Bull Airborne is the remarkable life story of our longest serving professional athlete Chuck Berry, a master of the NZ skies and all things aeronautical. If it can fly Chuck has flown it.

This program details the key accomplishments of a highly inspirational true life character who has literally followed his dreams, turned his wild ideas into his realities and who lives and breathes the Red Bull brand ethos.

 "An audio visual feast that will leave you with a smile on your face and a new passion to go jump off a cliff"  - NZ Herald

Red Bull Airborne - The Life Of Chuck Berry will premiere on Sky Sport 1, January 1st at 8:30pm and will repeat 21 times throughout the month.

For those out of towners who cannot make it tomorrow, I will be sending some DVD's your way soon or...

A few other notable SKY air dates are:
Sky Sport 1, January 5th at 9:30pm.
Sky Sport 1, January 6th at 730pm.
Sky Sport 2, January 7th at 8pm.
Sky Sport 3, January 8th at 6pm.
Sky Sport 1, January 11th at 9:30pm.
Sky Sport 3, January 14th at 4pm.

Base jumping adventure at Wonderland

I'm on an aerial hunt for new cliffs to jump in the Southern Lakes region, using the recently built microlight to search for these potential sites.
This Tuesday I flew a recce among the valleys & alps, west of Lake Wanaka. One reasonable cliff has stood out so far, nestled in a high, snow covered, alpine valley, adjoining the Wilkin River.
That's why I built a plane, for back country adventure.
Further potential sites were spotted today. The hunt is on.
Come November, I'm getting together with the Red Bull Team to complete a multi sport mission of Base jumping a new site followed by flying to a remote location & catching my dinner.

Yeharrrrr

AIRBORNE. The latest news.

After a month of planning & preparation, the Airborne mission got underway.
Phase one saw me taking to the skies in our Rans S6S microlight, heading westward across the rugged Southern Alps mountain chain. Destination Martins Bay on the remote West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. What an amazing flight among the mountains, valleys & lakes of this beautiful, scenic region, flying past glaciers & waterfalls that had just been marks on a map to me, until now. Arriving at 'The Coast' I descended above Lake Alabaster then followed Lake McKerrow to the wonderful back country airstrip at Martins Bay.
The Red Bull crew picked me up in a helicopter flown by local Wanaka legend, Toby Wallis who flew us further south to a stretch of coast known to be good for it's sea food. Trading an aircraft for wetsuits, Toby & I plunged into the southern ocean in search of the local delicacies, paua (abalone) & crayfish (rock lobster). We dove among the rocks & I was thrilled to come back to the beach with my first crayfish caught while snorkelling.
This had been my dream while building the plane & my smart reply to people who asked "what will you do with the plane when it's finished?" It's almost hard to believe I had achieved such a goal, one that kept me working away in the shed for the last three winters.

Phase two of the mission got under way the next morning. The mission; to find a new cliff from the plane (done that) & go base jump it. I flew the plane up the glorious Wilkin Valley on a beautiful morning to land on the Wilkin airstrip, nestled below the surrounding mountains. Toby picked me up in the heli & relocated us to the head of the adjacent Wonderland Valley where my new cliff waited to see some action. While the mountain guide Davie Robinson rigged ropes for the camera crew, Toby fired up his pressure cooker made from a beer keg & cooked a fine lunch from some crayfish caught the day before. How extravagant, a crayfish lunch before base jumping!
One highlight of the day was the heli drop off to my launch point on a sloping rock outcrop, 700 feet above the cliff I was about to jump from. With the crew all in position & cameras rolling, it was my time to perform. Wahoooooo. There's nothing like jumping a cliff for the first time, testing the waters, so to speak. OK.... 3, 2, 1, go. Yippeeeeeeee. What fun to be in the air for those brief, few seconds, taking in the spectacle as I free fall down the face of this new cliff before opening my parachute. Yeeharrrrrrr, I fly down to land on an area of flat shingle beside the stream that flows with glacial melt water from the mountains above. What a cool place. I pack & go back for more. Now that the first exploratory jump has been done, I can relax a bit & throw backflips on the next two jumps. The visuals when backflipping, looking back at the cliff while upside down, accelerating toward the ground are hard to describe, but so much fun to do. Wahooooooooo.
I had realised yet another dream, to find a cliff from the plane & go jump it!

Airborne. What a great mission. I got to fly to places I've never been, catch a feed, find a cliff & go jumping.
Big thanks to the Red Bull crew. I think they enjoyed the adventure as much as I did.... & the crayfish too.

Blue Skies

 

Chuck flying to the West Coast
Microlight flying past the Dart Glacier
Landing at Martins Bay
Mmmmmm... fresh crayfish
Rans S6S Coyote parked on the Wilking airstrip
Wahoooooo. Chuck's first jump at Wonderland
Second jump with back-flip
Third jump, also with back-flip.
My wonderful landing area.

Between 2008 & May 2011, there were many dreams that kept me in the shed, building our syndicates Rans S6S microlight. One dream was to fly to the annual Good Vibes Skydive Boogie in Motueka, New Zealands most awesome skydive event. This August, the dream was realised.
Flying out from Wanaka, the route took me up the country through the stunning, snow covered Southern Alps past Mt Cook & on further up the ruggged West Coast to refuel at Greymouth. Then I headed inland following the Buller river, meandering it's way through dense native bush. Sights I've seen from the road hardly compare to the joy of flying over this incredible country. After flying past Murchison, I made for Takaka at the top of the South Island to send aerial greeting to long time skydive buddy before backtracking to land at the Motueka airfield where the skydive boogie was in full swing.
The jumping was superb & being in the air with so many fabulous friends, doing wonderful skydives really does lift the soul. These are special moments that make life really worth living. The camaraderie of fellow airheads who enjoy the same zest for life is infectious. A special breed indeed.
Flying around New Zealand with my parachute in the back is the kind of multisport I live for... & now is no longer a dream. You may notice my grin in the video... that's the grin of contentment. What could be finer?

Blue Skies

Rans S6S Coyote flying over Rangitata Island. Photo Russell Brodie

Aloft
Building & Flying a Plane

As a kid I would race home from school on my bike, happily announce to Mum I had no homework (yeah right), & loose myself in the world of model planes. As I built & flew these wonderful toys from the ground, I dreamed of what it must be like to build a flying machine big enough to actually climb into, take to the air & zoom through the skies. Dreaming is the easy bit.
Two mates, Dom Eller & Chris Gut also share this passion for flying & together we teamed up to procured a Rans S6S Coyote microlight kitset which arrived in two large plywood boxes at the freight depot in Queenstown in January 2008. All I had to do was take the thousands of bits & join them all together into one bigger bit... that flies, with me in it.
Building  this plane has been my biggest project by far. It's a huge 3D jigsaw puzzle of mechanics, linkages, pulleys, electrical systems, hydraulics, engine, fuel system, prop, covering, painting, electrical, instruments, radio, plumbing, etc, which all needs to be thought about & done in the right order. As an aircraft engineer the airframe build was straight forward, whereas processes like covering, painting & electrics all required much learning to get the results I wanted.
My mission was to build a two seat aircraft capable of good back-country & cross-country performance, allowing aerial access to wonderful, remote adventures all around New Zealand. This requires good gear. A Rotax 912 100hp engine drives a constant speed propellor for max take off & cruise performance. In the cockpit, an Electronic Flight Instrument System provides flight & engine data, along with navigation, GPS, moving map, terrain, fuel calculations & so much more. We chose to fit a good radio, intercom (with music), transponder & Emergency Locating Transmitter to give clear communication, access into controlled airspace & safety. For back country operations, tundra tyres are a must for those less than smooth strips & to improve low speed handling further, I've fitted vortex generators to the wings resulting in a reduction in stall speed from 34 to 29 knots (33.4 mph).
To make the plane even more versatile we can fit a set of amphibious floats for those watery adventures.
This had been my labour of love for three years, four months & twelve days when we got the stamp of approval from CAA inspector Tony Hansen that our baby was fit to fly. The following day I began the 10 hour test flying program. There is something special about taking a creation of your own making into the air for the first time. It's the culmination of all the work, all the dreaming, all the imagination that went into making the dream come true.
So, how does she fly... FANTASTIC, well mannered, a joy to fly very capable of all the mission requirements... & we're just really getting to know each other with 40 hours aloft so far. I've been flying a lot with the local Wanaka crew who like to visit  top dressing strips  nestled on ridges & hill tops... now, that's fun! I've laughed out loud while flying at 13 000 feet, past the summit of NZ's highest mountain, Mt Cook & have flown multi leg flights up the country to do adventures with my mates.
That was my dream, a dream brought to life.
This just the start of some fine aerial adventures...
Must Fly...

Early in the build
Floats fitted
CDC in front of NAC in Taieri
Pre first test flight photo
First Take Off      Photo by Dom Eller
Mt Cook from 13 000'
I've got the best seat in the house
Mt Aspiring
On a top dressing strip in the Lindis with the boys
Chuck, Miles, Julian & Rob go river crossing at The One

The One with Miles Daisher & Julian Boulle

Earlier in the year I had the great pleasure to hook up, yet again with the irrepressible Miles Daisher MD & meet for the first time the most talented wingsuit pilot, Julian Boulle MD. Yep, we are the Doctors Three. On a mission this time to my favourite backyard base jump, The One.
Miles has been here before when we first met on the Discovery Channel show "Extreme Tribes" but didn't get to jump due to extremely hazardous snow conditions on the climb to the top... the fact that we were scared when running out of the path of an avalanche coming down from the slopes above.
This trip was different, the weather gods smiled as the jumping team of Miles, Jules & myself headed up the track along with Rob Pine & Ants Hansen taking photos as well as Ant's kids, Oban & Tana. The walk takes you up an alpine valley, through native bush, following a steep rushing stream, fed by the melting glaciers above.
Our first dose of excitement came in crossing that creek, which was swollen more than usual with freezing glacial thaw. Miles was new to this wading through rivers stuff so we all linked arms & took on the river as a team. That's the water obstacle dealt with.
I really enjoyed taking both Miles & Jules on the climb up The One, which to me, is part of the magic of this jump. These boys both love the exposure & I can hear that excited banter you get from your friends, just before doing something exciting. We climb the trees on the cliff then jumar up through some vertical sections before resolving the climbing obstacle. Then..."WOW... Picture Quality". A view of the snow capped mountains, hanging glaciers & alpine tarns. My guests are impressed so far as we descend to the edge of the 850 foot high cliff.
We geared up like excited kids & went to the edge to look down into the jump we'd just worked so hard for. The nearby waterfall was swinging through our fall line but would periodically fall straight down, opening the way.
It was so cool to share the launch point with these two Doctors of Fun. Miles took the first plunge & stepped into space. Yeharrrrrrrr.  Before the waterfall can swing back, Jules is ready to catch the moment. He launches from the cliff, face down, then rolls over, beams me the biggest smile along with a Peace sign. Yeah. What a special thing to share. The boys have both landed below & I can hear their merriment as the wind swings the waterfall right across my line. There's nothing like being all primed, ready to go... then wait, due conditions. In time the waterfall straightens for long enough for me to step back from the edge, take a breath, holler good & loud... & step into the glorious void.
In those brief seconds of freefall, I see the world slowed down, in technicolour 3D with realistic surround sound, watching the ground get closer...for real. There'll NEVER be a simulator that could ever get close to this experience.
What a great adventure to share with my friends. We link up to cross the river once more as the serenity of the bush is replaced with the sound of Miles raving about what a rad day he just had...while Jules & I nod, agree & grin.
What a lovely day.

Video coming soon.

Miles getting Air
Julian opening
Chuck opening at The One
Red Bull Gives You Wiings
Post base jump laughter with the boys
Miles Daisher, Red Bull & The One
Fantastic sequence of shots showing flight path. Graeme Murray Photo

Wingsuiting the Remarkables. Red Bull Chronicles.

Ever since I was a kid I imagined flying parallel with the earth, with arms outstretched, navigating the terrain ahead to fly in harmony with the planet. Today, the wingsuit does just that. Yippeeee.
On a beautiful April day I gather with the Red Bull NZ crew, camera teams & the fab  Heliworks chopper crew in a field directly below the majestic Remarkables Range in Queenstown, NZ. The Remarkables is a craggy, steep range of mountains rising to 7396 feet rows of steep gullies leading down to the flats below.
Yahooo, the heli takes me to 9000', right above Single Cone, the highest point on the mountain. My 3 Go Pro cameras are rolling, pilot gives the thumbs up & I launch into the air. Ahhhhhhhhh... how lovely to feel the freedom of falling through space. I tuck my wings back to dive steeply & pick up speed & energy to line up the correct gully at the right angle. The wind noise picks up, the gully entrance gets closer... time to spread my wings, fly past the camera crew & continue on flying in close proximity to the ridge in front of me.
What a sensation.... flying your body in relation to the earth... watching the ground race past only feet away. Seeing my shadow on the ridge, racing among the tussock, matching my speed & angle makes me laugh at the incredible things we can do if we dare to DREAM & DO.
If ever there was a bird experience, this was it! This is what I've seen in my dreams, arms out streched, racing through the air, just above the terrain, ridges flying by. I've seen this for real... in glorious, real time 3D, with live stereo audio. What a sensation!
Many thanks to the Red Bull team, Heliworks Heli team, camera team & Dick Jardine the friendly land owner & good keen man.

Yeharrrrrrrr. What Fantastic Fun.

Exit! It all starts here!
Chuck flying past Miles Holden
Yeeharrr. Snapped by Miles departing the scene
Beautiful sequence by Miles Holden. I love my backyard.
Chuck Berry about to base jump      Photo Bruce Hazler

Mini Soho IX Ad.

In a collaboration between Red Bull NZ & Mini NZ, a crew gathered at Red Bull's 'Base Camp' house in Queenstown to shoot the 'Chuck Vs Keys' for the Mini Soho IX. Led by Ivan Mennim we headed for the hills at the head of Lake Wakatipu to our base near the jump site. Winds aloft was evident from the wind borne snow on the tops so we headed up the Rees river to shoot set ups in a snowy river bed.
The following day was bluebird, the kind you live for. The staging area was in solid frost on this crisp, clear morning, the mountains coming alive in the first, warming rays of the day. I'm excited to be gathering parachuting gear, mountaineering equipment, radios, windsock, cameras & gear, as I hear the faint sound of an approaching Squirrel helicopter. Yeah, mission ON. The heli arrives, flown by Alfie Speight, an absoloute master of his machine & a total asset to have on our shoot with a good eye for camera flying & a cool character under fire.
Gear is loaded & we take off, heading for the hills, flying over beech forest on the way to the landing zone below the cliffs. The LZ is set up then mountain guide Bruce Hazler, camera man Regan Low & myself flew up the face of the cliff, spotting 5 Chamois in the fresh snow on the way up to my lofty 900' high pinnacle, protruding like a diving board in the middle of an over hanging wall. Bruce sets some rope while I prep my parachute & cameras. Now the fun begins, all the parts that make a mission have come together. Being at the top of a cliff with your gear on can only mean one thing... ACTION!
Being at 6000' & winter, my small rocky, off angle launch point also has ice on it. No worries... I've got a parachute on. Alfie flies Regan to shoot aerials & the key throw while I'm perched on the edge of a 900' drop, balancing against the occasional wind from the heli. If you're looking for excitement in your work, this is hard to beat.
The heli is set, the camera rolling & I get the OK... Yeah. My plan has been mentally rehearsed, time to realise the reality. Yeah. The special bit is the first micro moment as you begin motion toward the edge, here it comes, the edge of the planet, no going back, push off...into thin air. Accelerating down the face, the wind noise & visuals bombard the senses with sights & sounds of a true action experience. Time slows as my mind works in high gear to match the situation... after all... the ground's getting closer... & the closer you get to it, the faster it comes! My parachute opens beautifully & as the cliff is high in the mountains, I treat myself to a contour fly down the hill, among the snowy bluffs on my way to the LZ.
Hooray, what a day. I pack & head back for round two. Second jumps are good after ice breaker & have a more familiar feel allowing me to think more about improving the camera shots from the wrist & helmet cam while also thinking of the jump itself.
What a great day, in a great place, doing great stuff. Cheers to Bruce Hazler for great photo's. I like what can be achieved with a small crew of good people whose skills & energy combine to create in reality, what was just an idea. The power of thought, positivity & passion is indeed very powerful.
Dream Big

Chuck