From the Cockpit Part 24: Bolkow Bo 125

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 24 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Overseas, flying planes in the UK and Poland, Rankin preps a WWII-era de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane for his next flight, rigging cameras and getting his bearings, when an unexpected opportunity arrives in the form of a Bolkow Bo 125 helicopter swooping in for a landing. His host knows the owner, a man named Maciek, and tells Rankin to go ahead and catch a flight while he can. Maciek won’t wait or even turn the engine off, but if Rankin hurries he can make it. He grabs a GoPro, lashes it to a selfie stick and runs for the aircraft.

The first light twin-engine helicopter ever made, the Bo 125 enjoyed a production run from 1967–2001 as a multipurpose aircraft good for everything from medevac to military operations. Maciek purchased his from the German military, which used the helicopter as an anti-tank platform before decommissioning the lot. The helicopter was unflyable then, but Maciek has since restored the machine to its former glory. “He’s done a really incredible job,” says Rankin. “It looks like it could be put back into the military.”

Instead, the Bo 125 now enjoys a second life as one of the best aerobatic helicopters around. Stunt pilots for Red Bull favor them, and 2015 saw superspy James Bond give the Bo 125 a whirl in the opening sequence for Spectre.

After the challenge of the Robinson R22 two weeks past, one might expect trepidation at getting behind the controls of another helicopter, but Rankin just feels excitement. “Like anything,” he says, “you just have questions.” And, perhaps counterintuitively, the more complex and big a helicopter gets, on average the more stable the machine, meaning an easier time on the pilot. In other words, being designed for aerobatics, there’s less risk of a turn or maneuver knocking the bird out of the sky.

Flying for 30 minutes or so, Rankin tests the Bo 125 with some sharp banks and handling exercises before turning the controls back over to Maciek, who shows him what the Bo 125 can do, rolling the craft on its side and engaging in negative G maneuvers. “Which are things you don’t even want to try in a helicopter,” says Rankin. “It’s hard to believe a helicopter is doing that.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin in front of the Bolkow Bo 125. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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