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.