The pilots of two planes planned to swap planes midflight, leaving each aircraft unmanned for a short while, but the stunt went wrong. Luckily, both pilots ended up uninjured.
The fiasco brought a lot of attention to Red Bull’s disregard for FAA laws and regulations.
Red Bull advertised the event as a “world’s first” for the aviation feat and livestreamed the stunt on Hulu. The plan was for skydivers, pilots and cousins Luke Aikens and Andy Farrington to fly over the Arizona desert.
The engines would be turned off and the planes locked in auto pilot to guide their descent, allowing the pair to exit the cockpit of their respective crafts and skydive toward the opposite plane.
However, during the swap, one of the planes started falling much faster than the other, causing the craft to crash.
This all sounds bad, but everyone ended up unharmed and Red Bull is out the cost of the plane. What could possibly be so wrong the FAA would investigate?
At issue is the fact the brothers left their vehicles unpiloted. It is against the law to leave your vehicle unmanned while flying safely in the air.
Aikens and Farrington had applied for a waiver of this legal requirement for this stunt, but the FAA had denied their request. Despite this, they went forward with the stunt anyway.
To justify the waiver, the pilots claimed that the stunt would drive up interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and encourage people to pursue those careers.
However, the FAA didn’t agree. They told the cousins in their rejection letter that “would not be in the public interest and cannot find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety.”
Despite this, some didn’t think the FAA needed to investigate anything.
Red Bull has become known for these kinds of stunts. From doing donuts in an F1 racecar on top of the Burj Al Arab’s helipad, to Felix Baumgartner’s record breaking skydive into supersonic freefall, these stunts have always drawn attention.
Which makes the decision to proceed with the plane swap stunt without proper waivers all the more perplexing.
Maybe Red Bull had been listening to their own marketing a little too much and thought they’d get the wings to escape consequences?
Red Bull has not responded to any news outlet’s request for comment. There is no timeframe yet established for the FAA’s investigation either.
However, the National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the crash and plans to have an initial report in the next few weeks.