A stunt pilot who is scared of heights became the first in Europe to launch a pyrotechnic aerial formation firm.
Peter Wells, 48, set up Twister Aerobatics in 2010 and realised a boyhood dream after watching Red Bull Air Race legend Nigel Lamb as a child.
He said: “The peculiar thing is, I’m terrified of heights – I can’t climb a ladder. It’s quite common for pilots to be scared of heights, but I think it’s different when you’re strapped into a plane – you feel more safe and secure.”
Now Peter and fellow pilots and thrill-seekers Guy Westgate and Jon Gowdy from Brigthon, fly all over the world performing spectacular sky-high routines at 150mph.
Like-minded Guy joined Peter after meeting at an air show before they were joined by British Airways pilot Jon years later, and now the the men fly 500ft up in planes complete with LED lights and wing-tip pyrotechnics.
Peter said: “They’re basically kids’ sparklers on steroids. They hang off the back of the wing so that all the heat stays behind the aeroplane.”
The pilots fly solo in Silent Twisters, which are nippy single-engine machines built by Peter after he spotted a prototype at a German air fair.
The dad-of-two, who has clocked up 37 years experience in the cockpit, said: “They’re basically scaled-up versions of radio-controlled models. When we’re in the cockpit, we have the best seats in the house. We get to do some amazing stuff.”
Composite aircraft engineer Peter runs the business from his home in Long Crendon where he lives with wife Sally and their two children.
He said: “The pyro shows are actually quite simple, and we generally just repeat the barrel rolls and loops, which look quite impressive with the pyrotechnics.”
The show in the sky lasts for a total of eight-minutes while audiences on the ground ooh and ahh at their skills.
Peter recalls the first high-profile job they did – Bournemouth Air Festival – and how they didn’t realise what they had done until they landed back at the airport.
He said: “We can’t tell what the audience is doing from up in the air, but all I could see were hundreds of flash guns going off on the beach.
“It wasn’t until we landed that we got some feedback at the airport. It was then we realised that we were on to something good.”
But do the daredevil pilots ever think about the dangers?
Peter said: “The thing is with airshow acts, the moves look very spectacular when you’re throwing the plane around, but in actual fact it’s incredibly regulated.
“Before we go up, we have to be evaluated and given a display authorisation. By the time you get up there, you just do it.”
Peter says his favourite flight was over Barcelona’s iconic skyline and that: “Drinking a cold beer on the pier and watching all the other acts after we displayed was a pretty good experience.”
For more, visit www.twister-aerobatics.co.uk.