Who would have thought a Little Bird helicopter and a highly modified GL Wagon could perform a synchronized donut? Travis Pastrana and Floyd Ingram did, and they pulled it off on short notice after the scheduled stunt was canceled due to bad weather. Photo courtesy of Hoonigan.
Floyd Ingram flew AH-64 Apache attack helicopters during the invasion of Iraq. Later, he liberated helicopters from local militias in South Sudan during a civil war. Well, you might say he stole them. Or stole them back. It was complicated. Now he's debuting in Hoonigan's latest Gymkhana.
Either way, Ingram’s decades of no-holds-barred flying gave him the perfect resume to be the pilot in a new video with rally car legend Travis Pastrana and the Hoonigan Gymkhana team.
The video, produced by Black Rifle Coffee Company, combines the pursuit and competition of Ken Block’s vision of Gymkhana, Pastrana’s daredevil driving, and Ingram’s flying to create unprecedented stunts.
Travis Pastrana jumped a broken bridge that was damaged during Hurricane Katrina while Floyd Ingram hovered just a few feet below his GL Wagon. Photo courtesy of Hoonigan.
While Pastrana pilots a rally car, Ingram floats a Hughes AH-6C — the first-generation Little Bird designed for Army special operations — through a perfect donut next to the rally car for several revolutions.
Though the stunts go fast, Ingram’s path to stunt flying was winding. And it all began with a coin flip.
Floyd Ingram was finally facing two good choices. Now he just had to choose.
Floyd Ingram stands next to an MD-530FF helicopter after returning from external load operations combating wildfires on Kauai in 2006. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
He was 21 and a soldier in the Army. After two years in the Army, he’d just passed the intense selection course for Special Forces training. In 1998, he was already at 5th Special Forces Group, learning on the job before reporting to the Green Beret Q-course.
But as he waited, a letter arrived that told him he had been accepted into the Army’s flight training program. He’d applied before trying out for Special Forces when he was still a mechanic on AH-64 Apaches.
“So when the letter came down and said that I was selected for flight school, I just walked out back, reached in my pocket, pulled out a quarter, and I flipped it,” Ingram said. “Heads or tails.”
The coin landed. He was going to learn to fly.
A view out of Floyd Ingram’s AH-64A while crossing the Euphrates River for the first time during military operations Obj. Peach in March 2003. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
Over the next eight years, he flew over 300 combat missions in Iraq in AH-64s as a warrant officer, mostly with the 6th Air Cavalry in Iraq, a unit that later merged with today’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.
He loved flying but liked the rest of the parts of being in the Army less. In high school, he’d gone to class just enough to play football and build drag race cars in shop class, which he raced for money. To make ends meet, he stocked shelves on the late shift at supermarkets, a job he learned to love because it let him tackle the shoplifters who tried their luck at night.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity they afforded me every evening to football tackle them, clothesline them, spear them, and do things like that,” Ingram said. “I just couldn't wait to go to work.”
Floyd Ingram parked on the tarmac just before taking off for one of the 2022 Gymkhana stunts. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
He loved to fly, but the straight-laced culture of Army aviation was a tight fit. As a warrant officer, he spoke his mind often and occasionally with consequences and was out of the Army by 2006.
“The Army has their rules, and then there’s God’s law and God’s rules,” Ingram said. “You do what's right for people.”
Ingram grew up on a ranch in Arizona, where his dad taught him how to be a jack of all trades.
“I learned machining, welding, fabrication, electrical, building, concrete work, mason work, surveying,” Ingram said. “I mean, you name it, farming and all that. I learned it all from my dad.”
Floyd Ingram flew Travis Pastrana after picking him up from the roof of his Subaru Family Huckster, an 860hp active aero-equipped GL Wagon, during the filming of the 2022 Gymkhana video. Photo courtesy of Hoonigan.
At 5 years old, he caught the adrenaline bug when his dad took him out in a sand buggy, ripping across sand dunes near Yuma, Arizona. By 13, he was working in an ice plant. Many of the other employees had spent time in jail and passed the time telling him stories about life behind bars and the mistakes that had led there.
By 18, he was on his way to being a father but turned down a full-ride scholarship from the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America “because I thought I knew better” after high school.
In the summer of 1995, he joined the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter on a Hotshot crew, and loved the adrenaline and camaraderie. After a 600-mile sailing trip down the coast of Mexico with his firefighting crew, he took a job on an drilling rig.
“And man, that was something else,” Ingram said. “Everyone’s missing a digit, you know. It’s crazy stuff that I saw. Guys were carrying 300-pound pipes on their backs all day.”
Floyd Ingram battled wildfires on the Island of Kauai in an MD-530FF helicopter in 2006. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
That line of work wasn’t for him, and he picked up a job at a friend’s auto body shop in Globe, Arizona, and returned to building street rods.
In the spring of 1996, he went out looking for a race with a friend home on leave from the Air Force. The race ended at the sight of an Arizona state trooper squad car’s red-and-blue lights. When a judge took his license away, Ingram knew it was time to change things.
He walked into an Army recruiter’s office and was soon an Apache helicopter mechanic with the 101st Airborne Division. In 2003, he was a pilot with the 2-6 Air Cav, flying across the border into Iraq during the opening salvos of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But again, he found that the waiting was the hardest part.
Floyd Ingram’s AH-64A parked in B troop, 2nd Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry’s assembly area before their push into Iraq during Objective Peach in 2003. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
The unit lived out of large tents, which were soaked in diesel to repel rain. Besides the heat, the camp suffered from an infestation of kangaroo rats. Ingram took to dumping gas into their holes and lighting it. One hole took a whole 5-gallon tank of gas, and when he lit it, the ground rumbled.
After the rumble died, dozens of rats, most on fire, exploded out of the hole and ran toward the diesel-soaked tents.
Along with unauthorized animal control, he found other ways to almost get in trouble. He wore a mustache too long and refused to let his troops get pulled into menial tasks, butting heads with officers as he went. As the test pilot maintenance officer, Ingram spoke his mind.
“I wanted to be a good mentor to them and always stick up for them if I needed to,” Ingram said.
Lt. Col. Scott Thompson, squadron commander of the 2-6 Cav, issued Floyd Ingram a squadron coin for having the most outstanding mustache in a combat zone in March 2003. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
Ingram’s squadron was called up to help the 3rd Infantry Division with Objective Peach, where they would take a bridge over the Euphrates River, providing a solid foothold to take over Baghdad. As they made their way across the border, Ingram said it was like a scene out of a movie.
“It was the most apocalyptic-looking thing I had ever seen. You had this armor that’s like 2 miles wide, rolling in the desert and just blasting shit. M1 Abrams, M109 Paladins, and then you have a squadron of Apache attack helicopters — like 24 of them — over the top of that, shooting shit.”
The ground force seemed “trigger happy” to Ingram. They weren’t deconflicting the air space to ensure that the Apache attack helicopters were clear of their gun target line before launching their rounds.
“These fucking rounds, I shit you not, man, they were whipping by the helicopter,” Ingram said.
A smiling Blackwater operative locked and loaded for a mission in Iraq sometime between 2007 and 2009. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
Ingram left the Army for the civilian world, first flying tourist flights in Hawaii. In his first year, he racked up 1,800 flight hours with the MD 530F, the civilian Little Bird clone.
In 2007, he was hired by Blackwater and, later, other military contractors and flew in hot spots worldwide, including a particularly memorable trip to Africa. During one mission, the South Sudanese army seized his team’s helicopters.
Ingram and his team decided they would steal them back. The men were granted a brief and expiring access to the airfield after paying $15,000 to a well-connected person. Ingram jumped in the cockpit, and his fellow pilot jumped in the other helicopter and started throwing switches.
Floyd Ingram with a group of Very Able Troopers 69, an elite unit under the Royal Malaysia Police. Photo courtesy of Floyd Ingram.
“Turned the battery on, fire the thing up, and we took off, man — we didn’t even do [a communications] check,” Ingram said. “We just took off as fast as we could to get those aircraft out of there. I flew nap-of-the-earth all the way to Uganda.”
When Jarred Taylor with Black Rifle Coffee went looking for a pilot to pair up with Pastrana, he wanted a pilot who had seen it all. That led him to Ingram.
“I would say the things that Floyd did in combat are much more dicey than what we were doing,” Taylor said. “But having that skill, and having to push those limits constantly while deployed, makes this all the easy for a pilot like Floyd.”
The latest video with Pastrana drops Tuesday at 6 a.m. PST.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify dates.
Disclaimer: Black Rifle Coffee Company is the owner of Coffee or Die Magazine.
Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. he went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.
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