In a world-first, Red Bull Air Force members and cousins Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington will take their two Cessna 182 aircraft and pitch them into a synchronised nosedive at 14,000ft (4,000m), stop the engines, while a custom-manufactured airbrake will hold the planes in a controlled-descent speed of 140mph (225kph). The pilots will then exit their respective aircraft and skydive in tandem into each other’s planes, crossing over each other mid-air and regaining control, before performing a safe landing – all in under 1 minute for ‘Plane Swap’. Here is all you need to know:
– This is the first time in aviation history a pilot will take off in one plane and land in another. The concept is Akins’ brainchild that was inspired by a 1990s photo in an aviation publication and manifested over a lifetime.
– Aikin’s career has seen him become an acclaimed skydiver – undertaking more than 21,000 jumps – commercial aeroplane/helicopter pilot, innovator and coach, and consultant on the legendary 2012 Red Bull Stratos mission.
– The Washington native is always looking for ways to use science and engineering to push the sport to new heights. In 2016, he set a new world record by freefalling from the mid- tropospheric altitude of 25000 ft without Parachute, landing in a carefully constructed 30m x 30m net. It’s just one of three world records he holds.
– Meanwhile, Andy Farrington, also from Washington, was born to fly. Raised amongst a family of skydivers, his mum, Jessie, made about 100 jumps with Andy in utero. Andy made his first tandem jump at age 12, went solo at 16, and has since become the king of the skies, having accumulated over 27,000 jumps, 1,000 BASE jumps and 6,000 hours as a pilot.
– Hours of research and development have gone into the modifications required to ensure the feat is possible, with world-renowned aeronautical engineer Dr Paulo Iscold partnering with Aikins and Farrington to serve as lead engineer and solving the issue of how to produce a controlled vertical descent – the exact opposite of how autopilot systems are designed to function.
– This required the reverse engineering of the autopilot mechanics and resulted in a purpose- built airbrake system installed on the belly that will hold the planes at a controlled-descent speed of 225kph (140 mph) that closely matches the rate of the skydivers’ descent.
– Aikins revealed: “Plane Swap is the pinnacle of my career, and my goal is to inspire the world and show that anything is possible. You can set your mind on something that at times seems wild, crazy and unattainable, but through ambition and creativity, you can make it happen.”
Hulu is the exclusive streaming partner of Plane Swap in the US, and Red Bull TV is the broadcast platform globally.