Pilot Claims Responsibility For Attempting Plane Swap Without FAA Exemption

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Pilot and skydiver Luke Aikins has claimed responsibility for going through with last Sunday’s failed Red Bull Plane Swap in spite of the FAA’s denial of a request for an exemption from regulations prohibiting required crewmembers from leaving their stations while an aircraft is in flight. During the attempt, which was put on by Red Bull with livestreaming organized by Hulu, Aikins and his cousin, Andy Farrington, tried to “take off in one aircraft and land in another after sending their planes into a nosedive and jumping out of them.” Aikins succeeded in making the swap while Farrington parachuted safely to the ground after the modified Cessna 182 he was attempting to enter spiraled out of control and eventually crashed. No one was injured in the stunt.

“As Project Lead and Chief Pilot, it was entirely my responsibility to operate within the regulatory framework to ensure a successful outcome,” Aikins said in a statement posted on Instagram. “I received email notice April 22, 2022 from the FAA that a specific exemption was not granted and I made the personal decision to move forward with the plane swap. I regret not sharing this information with my team and those who supported me.”

Aikins further stated that he is “cooperatively working transparently with the regulatory authorities” reviewing the planning and execution of the stunt. As previously reported by AVweb, the request for an exemption asked for relief from 91.105(a)(1), which states that “(a) During takeoff and landing, and while en route, each required flight crewmember shall – (1) Be at the crewmember station unless the absence is necessary to perform duties in connection with the operation of the aircraft …” The FAA is investigating.

Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Yawn….the bigger fish to fry with the FAA is the precedent setting screw job they are giving Trent Palmer. Hey Paul, why don’t you guys at AVWEB look into this issue? Apparently if you FOLLOW the FAA’s own publication on off airport ops you will be subject for a violation and certificate suspension. You guys are the experts in aviation news but this does sound newsworthy IMHO.

  2. Mr Aikins not sharing the FAA not approving the exemption is the exact reason why I stopped flying exhibition jumps years ago, except for a few skydivers I actually trusted to do the proper paperwork and prep for those kind of jumps.

  3. I still think his cousin also broke the rule regardless of whether Aitkin didn’t disclose the denial. Aitkin may be lying to cover up for his cousin. You can’t be PIC for both planes. Both should get busted for breaking the regs.

  4. I assume the Jacka$$es had a contract with Red Bull? If the sponsor’s legal dept is worth anything at all they will have language denying payment if the sponsor is viewed unfavorably as a result. Like if there is the slightest whiff of Red Bull encouraging breaking the regs without appropriate waivers etc in place. As the sponsor, Red Bull obviously has the deepest pockets and should anything have resulted in injury, they would be the biggest target in a civil case.

    • Injury as in one Cessna 182 becoming a lawn dart? Does insurance cover this? In this case, perhaps the title of this Red Bull stunt should be “For whatever reason, practice went perfectly but the actual livestreamed stunt went wrong.”

  5. Too little too late. It is further pathetic that Like Aikins fall on his sword now that the bull is out of the barn. As the enabler Red Bull is also responsible. They had to sign off on this stunt knowing that the FAA denied the request. They all weighed their options ahead of time. I pray the DOJ makes them pay the price for their arrogance.