One helicopter, 10,000 nautical miles, 21 countries, 100 flying hours and 41 days. That sums up the journey of Australian tech entrepreneur and former Australian Airforce pilot, JP Thorbjornsen, in the very first Airbus ACH130 Aston Martin Edition helicopter.
Thorbjornsen – a former Australian Airforce pilot – is the first owner of the bespoke new ACH130 Aston Martin Edition. He told Forbes Australia that his interest in helicopters, after 12 years flying hornets and bombers in the Airforce, was spurred by a romantic sunset helicopter flight with his wife, Tara.
“I was like: ‘wow! Where have you been my whole life?’” says Thorbjornsen, who goes by the nickname JB Thor. “You’ve done 12 years of [Airforce] work, it’s gotten to you. You’ve taken five years off then it’s like that childhood sweetheart starts ripping at your heart.”
Purchasing the Airbus ACH130 Aston Martin Edition helicopter – which sells for between €3.5 million and €4 million ($5.8 million to $6.6 million) – was a “no brainer”, says Thorbjornsen. It brings together the highest levels of safety from Airbus with the style and prestige that Aston Martin is renowned for. The ACH130 is Thorbjorsen’s third chopper, but undoubtedly his favourite.
Thorbjornsen’s who after years in the Airforce co-founded blockchain company CanYa, took inspiration for his round-the-world trip after reading about a similar journey made by Australian businessman, Dick Smith, in the late 1980s.
“Originally it [the ACH130] was schedule to be delivered to me in a box in Brisbane, and I think Dick Smith’s book had come out at the time – which is his journey in the late 80s or early 90s of flying a jet ranger from Texas, through England and around the world to Australia. I was reading the book his book… and I thought ‘you know what, time to do it again!’”
Thorbjorsen, says while the aircraft “never missed a beat” on his round-the-world trip, there were challenges along the way. One particularly “nervous” part of the journey involved being detained by authorities for 20 hours in Myanmar where permits didn’t allow him to get him into or out of the country. Getting insurance was also difficult and expensive, and fuel alone cost between $40,000 and $50,000.
“I’ve always loved flying and was looking for a reliable and powerful helicopter that could safely fly my family and friends around,” he said. “I was impressed by the performance and comfort of the ACH130. I am also convinced that this Aston Martin Edition is the most attractive private helicopter on the market, combining Airbus’ engineering excellence and Aston Martin’s craftsmanship.”
Being the first Aston Martin Edition of the ACH130, Thorbjorsen says he’s “more than happy to share it around” when he’s not using it with his young family.
He would love to repeat the trip and has a bucket list dream of flying from the North Pole to the South Pole. Camping in the Australian outback in the ACH130 is also part of the plan. “It’s fully configurable and fits a good-sized mattress in it!”
Thorbjornsen, is currently based in Darwin, but spends a lot of time in Melbourne. On his way back from Melbourne to Darwin, Thorbjornsen plans to visit Dick Smith to show him his new chopper.
The low-down on the ACH130 Aston Martin Edition
Clinton Watt, Airbus Australia Pacific Head of Civil Helicopters, says the company has delivered eight ACH130’s worldwide and has 18 on order, five of which are from NZ clients.
“It can take between 18 and 24 months, as every helicopter, as you can imagine is custom made after the order is placed,” he told Forbes Australia. “We would love to see some orders from Australia.”
The ACH130 AM Edition has a bespoke luxury sportscar feel, thanks to specifically designed Aston Martin paint work and interiors, including plush leather two-tone seating and even cashmere blankets held above the headrests.
“It is such a delight to see how our customer has brought to life the ACH130 Aston Martin edition through this amazing journey, which fully embraced the power of flight in style,” Airbus Corporate Helicopters Head Frederic Lemos says.