Whatever happened to those two pilots who attempted to swap planes in mid-air — skydiving from one to the other while the planes slowly tumbled toward the desert 65 miles southeast of Phoenix?
One pilot successfully reached the other plane — but the other pilot didn’t, parachuting safely to the ground instead. “All of our safety protocols worked,” the first pilot said triumphantly in a documentary streamed on Hulu. Er, but what about that second plane, slowly tumbling toward the ground without a pilot? It fell 14,000 feet, landing “nose first” (according to footage from a local newscast) — though its descent was also slowed by a parchute. (Both planes also had a specially-engineered braking system to slow their fall so the skydiving pilots could overtake them.) The stunt was sponsored by Red Bull.
Both pilots had previously conducted more than 20,000 skydives — “but there’s a problem,” that local newscast pointed out. “The FAA says it had denied Red Bull permission to attempt the plane swap because it would not be in the public’s interest.” So now both pilots — who’d had “commercial pilot certificates” from America’s Federal Aviation Administration — have had their certificates revoked.
The Associated Press reports:
In a May 10 emergency order, the FAA cites the two pilots, Luke Aikins and Andrew Farrington, and describes their actions as “careless and reckless.” Aikins also faces a proposed $4,932 fine from the agency….
Aikins had petitioned for an exemption from the rule that pilots must be at the helm with safety belts fastened at all times. He argued the stunt would “be in the public interest because it would promote aviation in science, technology, engineering and math.”
While both pilots must surrender their certificates immediately, there is an appeal process.
Aikins had shared a statement on Instagram after the stunt, saying he made the “personal decision to move forward with the plane swap” despite the lack of the FAA exemption.
“I regret not sharing this information with my team and those who supported me.”
“I am now turning my attention to cooperatively working transparently with the regulatory authorities as we review the planning and execution.”