CEO Alex Wuerfel was enjoying a relaxed coffee with a friend when he got the call about pulling off the highest profile event of his career: flying an Aston Martin Vanquish around the skies of Dubai and landing it 212m up in the air for an Aston Martin centenary celebration taking place on the helipad of iconic luxury hotel, the Burj Al Arab. He couldn’t say no.
There were only ten days between Alex receiving the call and the event taking place. He went straight to the client’s office, then to the ES:ME HQ to consult his team. Together, they designed a frame for the car to sit on that could be suspended from the helicopter by cables. There were many meetings to fit in too: with the pilot, the Air Traffic Authority, the rope access rescue team and other involved parties.
The car and frame were lifted by a crane in advance of a trial with the helicopter, to check the total weight. It needed to be lighter, so Aston Martin removed the petrol tank and engine to bring it down to the required weight. We carried out repeated checks to test the strength of the ropes, the hooks and the balance.
During the first test flight, the pilot hovered a little off the ground before landing again, not confident that his helicopter could cope with the load. The client found a second commercial pilot who frequently transported heavy loads to offshore oil platforms. With his experience, he was able to complete the test flights.
Aston Martin wanted their brand to be visible from below, meaning it had to be attached to the bottom of the frame we had built. This caused further complications for take off, as the branding material caught the downwash created by the helicopter’s rotor blades and added more weight to the entire load.
Against all odds, everything was ready by the day of the event. Alex himself had the job of unhooking the frame from the helicopter once the car had been flown up to the helipad. Once the event was finished, he had to hook it back on for its return journey. Turbulence and wind speeds of up to 25 mph made this moment extra tense, but after the pilot made an extra loop to stabilise the helicopter, he completed it without a hitch.
The event was the talk of Dubai, and it even stopped traffic. Aston Martin was delighted with the outcome. Their Chair and CEO at the time, Dr Ulrich Helmut Bez, said, “We have achieved another world first – one of many for Aston Martin over the years. This is a true feat for Aston Martin and a fantastic way to begin a new century of global success for our iconic brand.”