Energy drink company Red Bull is famous for sponsoring daring stunts. However, the April 24, 2022, mid-air "plane swap" by a pair of experienced pilots and skydiving masters promised to be like none other ever witnessed. Though the widely-publicized event did not go quite as planned, the stuntmen — cousins Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington — luckily emerged unscathed.
Red Bull's "audacious challenge" involved Aikins and Farrington taking off in two Cessna 182 single-seat aircraft. Upon reaching an altitude of 14,000 feet, the experienced skydivers would leap out and attempt to take over each other's planes. The complex maneuver required the men to catch the free-falling airplanes before they reached 4,000 feet, disengage the air brakes systems, restart the engines, and land them safely.
To help them achieve the risky task, the aircraft were fitted with special autopilot systems designed to keep them on the correct trajectories. The planes also had speed brakes and larger tires to slow the rate of descent and allow the skydivers to catch up with them.
Aikins and Farrington had successfully completed the heart-stopping trick multiple times before the final attempt. However, things did not go as smoothly on Sunday. Aikins managed to grab his plane. But Farrington's plane, which rapidly spiraled out of control into a downward tailspin, proved impossible to catch, forcing the stuntman to parachute to the ground. The aircraft— which also deployed a parachute — crash-landed in the Arizona desert soon after.
Though disappointed that the stunt did not go as planned, the two men are grateful to have walked away safely. "All the numbers matched up ... everything should have been good to go," Farrington said. "For some reason, it wasn't that way but at the end of the day we're both here, we're both good to go. Everybody's safe and sound and I guess that's the important part."
The failed plane swap attempt is now being investigated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As it turns out, FAA officials had denied the organizers' request to allow the airplanes to fly unmanned and instructed them to include a second pilot. Since this was clearly not the case, those involved could face punishment.
Resources: CNN.com, NBC.com, NYPost.com,