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Red Bull Pilot Luke Aikins Falls on His Sword for Illegal Plane Swap Stunt

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t like it when you crash your plane, either on purpose or because you didn’t make sure it wouldn’t happen. So the FAA is now investigating a Red Bull stunt called Plane Swap.
The Red Bull Plane Swap was a record-setting attempt that ended in a crash 6 photos
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Plane Swap was a record-breaking attempt that took place on April 24 above the Arizona desert, with experienced pilots Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington. Each flew a single-engine Cessna 182 to an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), put the aircraft in nosedive and jumped out, with the goal of skydiving into the other pilot’s plane to take control.

The feat had never been attempted before, and Aikins, who was also the brainchild behind it, had worked on it for 10 full years, Red Bull said ahead of the event, which streamed live on Hulu. Having invested so much time and effort into the stunt, Aikins wasn’t about to let a small thing like an FAA denial to block it.

Red Bull applied for permission with the FAA in February, and the request was denied shortly before the event. The FAA objected to the idea of two aircraft nosediving unmanned, and said that the only condition for approval was that of including a backup pilot. Red Bull went ahead with the stunt as originally planned.

In a statement on his Instagram, Aikins falls on his sword and effectively takes all responsibility for the illegal stunt from Red Bull. He was the one who received the FAA denial, and he was the one who decided not to share it with the rest of the team. “I made the personal decision to move forward with (the) plane swap,” he writes. “I regret not sharing this information with my team and those who supported me.”

Aikins says that he’s collaborating in the ongoing investigation. If the recent Trevor Jacob “I crashed my plane” stunt taught us anything, it’s that the FAA doesn’t have power to prosecute. But it can – and does – revoke pilots’ licenses if it determines the crash was intentional or preventable.


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