Red Bull’s latest aerial stunt ended in disaster Sunday after one of the aircraft involved in a “plane swap” lost control and crashed in Arizona. No one was injured during the incident.
According to the company’s website, skydivers Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington planned to “go down in history as the first pilots to take off in one aircraft and land in another.” During the stunt – which was dubbed a “plane swap” – the skydivers would pilot their planes to 14,000 feet before jumping out of them in mid-air simultaneously, leaving both planes temporarily unmanned.
Video of the stunt shows that one pilot managed to get into the other plane and successfully land, but the other pilot was forced to deploy his parachute as his aircraft spun out of control.
Red Bull’s website explained that the feat required both pilots to put their planes into a tandem nosedive and activate a custom-built autopilot system.
“Each aircraft has also been fitted with a speed brake and larger than standard wheels to help create more drag and slow the rate of descent and ensure the skydivers can catch up to them. The autopilot will activate once the pilots have manually entered the nosedive and switched the engines off to cause the planes to stall in mid-air,” the company’s website said.
“With the airplanes holding their trajectory in the nosedive, Luke and Andy will then exit their planes and skydive to approximately 2,000ft above ground level before getting into the other aircraft,” it continued. “Once back inside their new aircraft Luke and Andy will switch off the autopilot, retract the speed brake and restart the engines, whilst pulling level. They will then switch off the smoke to show to all around the mission has been successful.”
Red Bull said in a statement that damage to one of the aircraft led to the crash landing.
“Two pilots Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington attempted to Plane Swap mid-air for the first time. The feat was partially accomplished as one pilot successfully swapped planes and landed the aircraft in the Arizona desert,” the company said. “The second pilot (and skilled skydiver) was unable to enter the plane he was approaching. He skydived into a safe landing. The second plane’s safety mechanisms activated but the plane was damaged.”
According to Fox News, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initially denied Red Bull’s request to perform the never-before-done stunt, writing, “The FAA has considered the petition, and finds that granting an exemption from § 91.105(a) would not be in the public interest and cannot find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety.”
The agency is now investigating the incident.