Video by: Tom Compagnoni
Hanging upside down in a plane with seven cameras trained on me was enough to make me vomit -- so I'm not sure why the hell I agreed to board a plane and let a stranger launch me into the sky in a sequence of loop-the-loops. Call it extreme dedication to the job*, if you will.
The two week lead up to the stunt was a bit of a blur. I'm one of those people who likes to block out emotions. I don't like the build up, whether it's excitement, anger, or in this case extreme terror. Either way, it's the only reason I actually made it to the airport on the day. And on the morning of the flight I was so distracted by my burnt tongue (remember to check your tea temps, people!) that I didn't register what was going on.
Until I saw the plane.
It had wings (success!), two seats and was probably older than I am. The front seat, which had no roof, was for me. And the one at the back, which had a bunch of fancy controls, was for the pilot, Joel Haski from Red Baron. There was also a tried and tested harness to keep me in place (or stop me escaping?), and by that point I realised there was no backing out.
Joel yelled "clear prop!" and the engine did its thing. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. Okay, that's an Eminem lyric. But it seemed like the right choice given the circumstances.
While we're being honest, I can admit that every time Joel said "foxtrot" I lost my shit. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to respond, he was inviting me to dance or it was code for "we're plummeting towards the ground in a series of smooth, progressive movements".
So how did it go? Well, I literally died. I'm writing this from the afterlife. The technology here is really great and I've managed to hang on to all my memories. Including the following about the aerobatic flight that finished me.
I'm basically invincible now. No, really. I can do it all. I also felt really safe the entire time and I realised there's more chance of me dying in an activity I am in control of. You know, like driving around the CBD or choking on pizza shrapnel. Joel, my mild-mannered tormentor, was extremely in control the entire time and he helped me do some things I didn't think were possible, including trusting him with my life and letting go enough to enjoy the whole thing.
I also threw up with seven cameras angled directly at my face, so there's that.
Thankfully, I'm really tight with our video editor and he agreed to edit all those parts out. Which is a shame for you guys, really. Because what I noticed from watching spew cam is that despite my upset tummy, I was still smiling.
I left Red Baron feeling like I could do anything. And as Joel explained, a bit of spew could be controlled (by their fancy vom bags, no less). And the thing that stops most people from conquering their fears, is their own mind. Once you're in control of that, you're free as a bird.
All in all, it was easily one of the top five most exhilarating things I've done in my life. And I've met Justin Bieber and watched 'The Block' live auction, so that's saying a lot.
Ten out of ten. Would vom again.
*Boss, if you're reading this, I'm ready to discuss a pay rise.
Aimie Rigas took to the skies courtesy of RedBaron.com.au.
An earlier version of this story referred to the plane as a WWI-era plane. It is a Pitts Special S2A aerobatic bi-plane.