British air sports legend helicopters in

IMG 72551Even among the large crowds at the FAI World Air Games, it's hard to miss Quentin Smith. The flamboyant British helicopter pilot wears a Union Jack jacket, and has been flying, he says, since the age of five.

Since then his flying achievements include helicoptering around the world. The 51 year old has recently completed an expedition to all three North Poles; magnetic north, true north, and the pole inaccessibility, which is the furthest point from land.

"Yes, it's bloody inaccessible, I can tell you," confirms Smith from behind his Aviator sunglasses and goatee beard while spectators stop, point and take pictures of his outfit.

"It's incredibly remote, 700 miles from land. This trip was supported, but I flew to the North Pole unsupported once before in 2001, a very dangerous journey."

Smith is competing in the slalom rotorcraft helicopter competition. Together with co-pilot Chris Summers, he must pick up a bucket of water on a rope suspended below the helicopter and swing it through a course of gates, 11 metres below, before dropping it back on a table without spilling the water.

Alexander Zhuperin of Russia, and brothers Michal and Marcin Szamborski of Poland are also strong contenders. Competitive helicopter sports flying was pioneered in the former USSR during the cold war.

After the first round Smith was very disappointed with his performance. "We didn't get enough practice. And it doesn't help when I can't remember the bloody course," he said.

By Andy Pag

Photo: James Pagram / FAI Media Team

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