NTSB Issues Clipped Analysis Of Plane Swap Crash

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In what may be the shortest final report ever issued by the NTSB, the board found the probable cause of the crash of a Cessna 182 being used in a made-for-streaming airplane swap stunt for Red Bull last April to be “exceedance of the critical angle of attack which resulted in a stall, subsequent inverted spin, and impact with terrain.” The board spent just 150 words in its analysis of what went wrong (and right) with the stunt, which sparked intense media and forum discussion for days after the 182 slammed vertically into the desert. 

Red Bull pilots Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington were trying to switch airplanes while they and the aircraft were freefalling. Aikins managed to get into Farrington’s plane and safely land but Aikins’ plane went into an inverted spin and Farrington had to parachute to safety. Both pilots had their certificates revoked. The FAA revealed that they had applied for an exemption from FAA regs that would have prevented the stunt. The FAA refused to allow the exemption and the pilots proceeded with the flight, which had been heavily promoted and was livestreamed on Hulu.

The NTSB cut through all the extraneous chatter and concentrated its analysis on the cause of the spin itself. It interviewed Aikins, who postulated that extra fuel added as ballast to replace the weight of a safety pilot caused the spin. He also told the board that the plane had a ballistic parachute that released automatically at 1,000 feet AGL but it went off when the plane was inverted and didn’t fully deploy.

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41 COMMENTS

    • I presume since the accident involved “substantial damage” to the aircraft, they were required to investigate the crash. And it wouldn’t surprise me that if they took any shortcuts on it, some politician down the line with an axe to grind would twist it against them (and it wouldn’t be without precedent).

    • Not investigating this disapproved stunt and proceeding anyway because of Red Bull promoting it, one of the two pilots knew the stunt was disapproved, the public fully engaged would have presented the FAA as looking the other way with repercussions from the aviation community. This goes along with the previous stunt of bailing out from an airplane with parachute to garner YouTube fame. All three pilots deserved their flying privileges revoked.

    • Agreed. That’s what Discovery Channel did.

      It’s on thing to argue that FAA should have granted a permit to do the stunt. I think they should have!

      But that’s different than saying it’s OK to do the stunt anyway even after the FAA said no.

      • Red Bull was not suggesting they were doing a regulated “test crash” with appropriate fire/rescue personnel and safety measures in-place. They also were not performing this stunt in an approved restricted area. Stupid is as stupid does.

  1. I’d prefer people like our little Dougie to wear straightjackets. A helmet provides the wearer protection, where as a straightjacket protects everyone around the wearer.
    And the NTSB report was way too long. It should have said the cause of the accident was, “STUPIDITY”!

  2. Who but an outrageously high dollar corporation would already have a live stream HULU show scheduled without even getting the permission first. “Cart before the horse”. It may have taken some time but I believe they could have done it correctly and through the proper channels. But “Red Bull” has “ball$” and money so up your FAA.

  3. There’s enough problem with fool pilots on useful missions.

    USMC MV-22 crashed in Norway because pilot went too low with excessive bank angles, in maneuvers not in the training plan.
    A retail body-worn video camera was found in the wreckage.