Formation Flying for

I'm A Celebrity

The first episode of this year’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here has finally hit our screens. We are delighted to have been an instrumental part of it. Months of preparation and planning have gone into carrying out a spectacular opening sequence for one of the UK’s biggest TV shows of this year.

Due to this year’s ongoing situation. It was not possible for the show to take place in its usual location of Murwillumbah, New South Wales. Its new home for 2020 would be Gwrych Castle in North Wales.

The opening episode was viewed by a massive 11.7m viewers. Usually, it features half the celebrities making a grand entrance into camp, and this year’s show would be no different. So, ITV went looking for five helicopters for the celebrities and another one to film them. As one of the few aerial filming companies in the country with this number of aircraft, we were ideally suited to fill this role. With all the aircraft and filming equipment in-house, production had the confidence that we could provide everything required without having to rely on third parties.

The show required that the helicopters carrying the celebrities were to be twin-engine, and black. With six of our ten aircraft being twin-squirrel AS355’s, this was fine. However, only one is currently completely black, and that’s G-CMRA. So, in order to meet this requirement, we had four of our helicopters painted black over two days (G-LINE, G-DCAM, G-OLCP & G-VGMC).

GB Helicopters fleet flying in formation for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Finally, we nailed down the shot list and formations we would be flying to achieve them. Our pilots have a wealth of experience flying in formation with another aircraft when aerial filming but flying as part of a five-aircraft formation was going to be a new experience for a few of them. However, the principals behind this remain the same; so there was little doubt that they’d all excel at the task.

After all the preparation and painting was complete, it was time for the fun part, a practice flight. From our base in Cheshire we got all the pilots, camera operators and ground crew together and lined up the aircraft. Six helicopters, all rotors running and engines roaring, took to the skies in what was an epic display of machines and noise. The I’m A Celebrity production team were going to be in for a treat.

Huge thanks to drone operations Lec Park & Andy L for this video

Next up was rehearsal day, one week prior to showtime. The weather could not have been better for a day in mid-July, let alone in November. Once again, six helicopters took to the skies. Will Banks flying the camera ship (G-TVGB) with DoP Mike Parker. The duo left base armed with the GSS C516 and the Sony P1. They headed to Snowdonia to get shots of the sunrise over the Welsh mountains. Completely still conditions gave perfect views and crystal-clear reflections from the lakes dotted around the valleys.

The first formation flights would take place before heading north and flying over Gwrych Castle and Abergele. The five twin squirrels arrived later, and this caused quite a stir. Reports of helicopters over the I’m A Celebrity castle were everywhere! Photos and videos of us making it to social media and news sites. Speculation went into overdrive and there was a noticeable spike in excitement surrounding the preparations for the show.

The rehearsal had gone perfectly and everyone was thrilled with the results. We now had to do it all over again the following week, on Friday the 13th, and the weather was looking awful. Anxiety levels were rising as the day approached and the weather hadn’t improved. Then, two days before the shoot, the weather looked to be in our favour. Twelve hours later however, it was back to wind and rain. But with less than 18 hours to go, the weather decided to behave and gave us a weather window of clear blue skies for the shoot. For two days, one week apart, in November, in the Welsh mountains, we had nearly identical weather.

GB Helicopters formation flying for I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here

Then came the big day. With the pilots final briefing the night before and a good night’s rest, they were ready to head off. Once again Will and Mike left early to get shots of the sun rising over North Wales, while the main fleet took off to a secret location, ready for the celebrities to arrive. Landing at the site, lined up nose to tail, they waited for this year’s (un)lucky contestants to appear.

One at a time, the blindfolded celebrities where loaded into a helicopter, which then took off and made its way to our camera ship. As each helicopter joined they formed up to allow the celebrities to see each other for the first time. Once all of them were onboard and all six helicopters formed up, they made their way through Wales and Snowdonia. We flew through gorgeous valleys, above lakes and over mountain peaks in various formations. Allowing us to shoot stunning footage as we flew.

The Celebrities were dropped off at a remote location, going straight into their first task. We returned to base for a debrief.

All that was left to do now was put the aircraft away and strip away the paint. While we wait until Sunday to see the results.