Outback wrangler Matt Wright has been charged with breaching strict aviation restrictions after footage re-emerged of him ‘slinging’ from a helicopter over crocodile-infested waters.
Businessmen, tourists and television stars hang from helicopters over swamps and crocodile nests in the Northern Territory, including Samantha Armitage and Edwina Bartholomew.
Wright, pilot Michael Burbidge and ‘crocodile king’ Mick Barnes have been charged with possible breaches of Civil Aviation Safety Authority approvals granted for missions to collect crocodile eggs, according to an investigation by The Australian.
CASA approval – called a legislative instrument – allows operators to collect crocodile eggs via a sling person on the underside of the R44 helicopter.
It comes with 33 strict conditions and is restricted to crews ‘essential to operations’.
In 2011, Armitage was a guest reporter on Seven’s Sunday Night Current Affairs program when he interviewed Wright, who was then hailed as a rising star as the Outback Wrangler.
Matt Wright (pictured with wife Kaia) has responded to the latest allegations with his spokesperson describing the claims as ‘nothing more than scraping the bottom of the barrel’.
A piece of footage featured in the segment showed Armitage hanging from a helicopter over crocodile-infested swamps in the remote Lichfield region.
The segment, which aired 12 years ago, has since been publicly available on Mr Wright’s agent’s YouTube page.
Wright starred in another Sunday Night segment two years later in 2013.
It has already been harnessed to reporter turned Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew and is said to ‘save her life’.
He was then slung under a helicopter piloted by Burbidge and dropped along with Wright into 15-foot tall reed grass near a crocodile nest.
Adelaide hotel boss Peter Hurley revealed he took part in a crocodile egg collection mission with Wright and Barnes at the same time in 2013.
He described the mission as a ‘very professional operation’ which raised funds for Twi Bombers Football Club.
‘I think we all paid six or 10 thousand dollars or something but I will emphasize … they were very security conscious. The nests were in heavily wooded areas so you had to get down and it was a very … it was an adrenaline thing, I admit,’ Mr Hurley told The Australian.
A Sunday Night segment featuring Matt Wright in 2011 featured guest reporter Samantha Armitage lying in a crocodile-infested swamp under a helicopter.
Edwina Bartholomew was shot from a helicopter for a Sunday Night segment in 2013.
Sources claim that in March 2021, a tourist was dangled in a crocodile nest under a helicopter during an egg collection mission and similar incidents have been happening for years.
Operators and pilots collecting crocodile eggs must comply with CASA regulations.
‘The pilot in command is authorized to take a single person (sling person), positioned in a harness system attached to a helicopter in flight, for the sole purpose of the activity,’ the legal instrument obtained through Freedom of Information states.
‘Persons other than crew members essential to the operation are not carried.’
CASA has since confirmed that crocodile egg collection operators are not authorized to carry tourists or members of the media hanging from helicopters.
It added ‘such activity… shall be treated as a serious offence’.
The journalists and tourists involved were not charged with any wrongdoing and none were recommended.
Footage has resurfaced of journalists being slingshotted from helicopters over crocodile-infested waters. Pictured is Edwina Bartholomew filmed for a Sunday Night segment in 2013
Matt Wright (left) and pilot Michael Burbidge (left) have been charged with possible breach of Civil Aviation Safety Authority approval for a mission to collect crocodile eggs.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted CASA for further comment.
Wright’s spokesman characterized the revelations as ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’.
His spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia, ‘Safety is always a priority for Matt and his team.
‘This is nothing more than scraping the bottom of the barrel for publicly available interviews from 12 years ago to create a negative story.’
Wright did not respond to questions about whether he was aware of the CASA investigation into potential violations.
The new allegations come almost 18 months after Wright’s co-star Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in February 2022.
Matt Wright (pictured with his wife Kaia) has been accused of breaching strict CASA rules
Wilson, 34, was collecting crocodile eggs in a remote area of West Arnhem Land when the helicopter hit a tree and fell to the ground.
An Australian Transport and Safety Bureau investigation into the accident is due to hand down its findings in September.
Wright became a household name more than a decade ago as the star of the National Geographic Channel series Outback Wrangler, which has aired in nearly 100 countries.