The FAA is investigating a made-for-streaming Red Bull stunt over the Arizona desert that went awry on Sunday. The agency told AVweb late Sunday that it had earlier rejected a request for an exemption from FAA regulations by organizers of the stunt. “The FAA will investigate Sunday evening’s attempted Red Bull Plane Swap in Arizona. One of the two single-engine Cessna 182 aircraft used in the stunt crashed after it spun out of control. The pilot landed safely by parachute. The other pilot regained control of the second aircraft and landed safely. The agency on Friday denied the organizer’s request for an exemption from Federal regulations that cover the safe operation of an aircraft,” the agency said in a statement to AVweb

In the denial letter, the agency says it can see no public interest being served in the stunt and it also said the stunt might affect public safety. It has apparently refused permission for similar actions in the past but in those cases it was to simulate a crash landing. The organizers specifically asked for relief from 91.105(a)(1), which says someone has to be in the cockpit when the plane is in flight. The FAA says the stunt actually violated other regs, too.

Cousins Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington were attempting to each exit their own modified Cessna 182 in a dive and maneuver to the other’s unoccupied aircraft and regain control of it. Aikins managed to get into Farrington’s aircraft but his own plane began spiraling out of control and Farrington had to parachute to safety. The stunt was put on by Red Bull and the streaming service Hulu organized the live stream. Anyone who wanted to watch it live had to sign up for a trial of Hulu. The entire three-hour flight was released by Red Bull after the stunt and the main event starts at about 2:33:00

The pilots have been working on the stunt for several months and installed belly-mounted speed brakes on the 182s that were supposed to stabilize the aircraft in the uncrewed portion of the dive. The autopilot had also been modified to hold the planes in a steady dive. It’s not clear what went wrong. It also wasn’t immediately clear where the crashed aircraft ended up.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Looks like the blue bird pitched forward too hard and negative-stalled and spun.
    From the chatter in the feed it sounds like it had a BRS deployment and landed upright?

    • Have now seen a photo. There is a chute, but it must have tangled or something, as it appears to have had no effect on slowing the descent. RIP, C182!

      • They did not read the POH for the 182 which says it is not approved for spins and they found that out!!! Ah, I say that’s a joke son. It is too bad they destroyed another of the dwindling number of vintage 182s. Should have done it with a couple Skyhawks and no one would have cared.

  2. In my lifetime I’ve seen idiotic stunts, but this one absolutely takes THE cake.

    Lupo Rattazzi

  3. Deja vu… Swear I just saw another pilot parachuting out of a perfectly good airplane for a stunt recently. FAA will catch up to this one too. I wonder if Ridge Wallet sponsored this one.

  4. Am I missing something? “… (FAA) had earlier rejected a request for an exemption from FAA regulations by organizers of the stunt.” So these guys went ahead and did it anyhow?

    This aviation nuttiness has gone far enough! The FAA destroyed Martha Lunken for flying under a bridge by accusing her of turning her ADS-B transponder off. These two clowns should be grounded for life for having no brains and even less responsibility! They’re making ALL of us look bad. What WAS the point … other than sensationalism and a minute of fame? IF the FAA lets these two get away with this … I’m DONE with them. Fair and equitable treatment for breaking the rules will be out the door and the FAA will prove that it serves no purpose. These two ought to be receiving ‘turn in your certificates’ letters just like the goon in the T-craft by Special Delivery tomorrow morning!

    • Am I missing something? “… (FAA) had earlier rejected a request for an exemption from FAA regulations by organizers of the stunt.” So these guys went ahead and did it anyhow?

      To be fair, the Army Golden Knights had approval but the FAA screwed that up. So it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this stunt had been approved but the FAA forgot.

      “The FAA destroyed Martha Lunken for flying under a bridge by accusing her of turning her ADS-B transponder off.”

      And I’m pretty sure Martha Lunken is alive and well. And she didn’t fly under a bridge because the FAA accused her of turning off her ADS-B transponder.

      • You’re assuming the FAA “forgot.” Sorry … NOT good enough, Don!!

        My point about Martha was that they didn’t get her for the bridge as much as being judge and jury that she turned her ADS-B off despite her claims she didn’t AND proof that she had it in to an avionics house. My point was, when they want to “execute” you, they do and when they don’t, they don’t.

  5. When you start out with “stupid” on your left and “stupid” on your right, what do you end up with in the middle?

  6. They should have done this in a Cessna 162. Too bad Cessna destroyed them on the ground that didn’t sell. Cessna could have kept them just for fools trying something like this.

  7. Stupid is stupid.
    Since the faa has now pulled the ticket on the idiot who crashed a plane for a you tube video.
    They dam well better pull them on these idiots also!
    no if ands or buts, they broke the rules.

  8. Not sure if it was on this website or another that I read about this Friday. Some of the comments that were left last week that stick out in my mind today; “I know the FAA has provided an exemption for this” “This has been practiced several times, it’s a non-event”.

    I don’t necessarily buy in to the “safety first” mindset or why would I ever leave the house, but there is a wide gap between calculated risk and pure recklessness and this is an example of the latter.

  9. For those of you asking why and saying they were stupid the answer is simple: follow the money. Until the FAA makes the pain for these stunts more than the potential gain they will continue.

  10. They “flew” this stunt despite being refused an exemption by the FAA? Hard to believe this investigation will take very long.

    • We’re dealing with the FAA here, John … they’ve been making simple sh,… STUFF … hard since 1958

  11. Biggest laugh from the FAA’s Denial Of Exemption:

    “The petitioner states he is a pilot that has been conducting a flight test program for an inspirational project called the Red Bull Plane Swap. The petitioner asserts that a grant of exemption would be in the public interest because it would promote aviation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and encourage students to seek a career in STEM.”

    And BTW, Red Bull – you look stupid too.

  12. How about we come up with a new rule: If you want to risk an airplane, then you have to build it first. That way, you’re not destroying something you bought at a discount vs new, you’re not destroying someone else’s future in aviation, you’re not destroying a bit of history, you’re not destroying “fill in the blank”. If you have a big imagination, then put the wallet behind it – and the time invested in it – by building your own crash toy. That way, when it eats the ground (hopefully not with you in it), we can ask you how it felt to see thousands of hours of work/part of your life go up in smoke.

    Time for the folks that come up with these crazy ideas to have more skin in the game and stop destroying a limited supply of old airplanes.

    • or….how-bout we stop trying to tell other people how to live their lives. Lots of dangerous events occur that are planned for, public is protected against and liabilities are addressed that are safely executed.

  13. Profligate waste!! The airplanes could have been used for humanitarian and other causes in Africa and elsewhere.

  14. Attempting to execute a stunt like this is akin to self abuse in a House of Ill Repute: you can do it, but what’s the point…?

  15. We see here the wages of the FAA’s overly lenient treatment of Taylorcraft Man. These guys probably looked at his one year suspension, and decided they were fine with a one year, they mainly like skydiving anyway…. To the extent that risk assessment and rationality was involved at all, that is. If FAA doesn’t come down harder on these cases, the $$ and imagined glory of social media will swamp the public interest.

  16. Stupid people everywhere.

    The Question is whether one or both of the aircraft could have proceeded in stable descending flight to hit someone on the ground.

    Someone may pontificate on the modification that didn’t keep the airplane stable

    While Kurmudgeon Keith suggests camera people should have been required to sit in back of each airplane.

  17. I’m disappointed in all the negative reactions here. I feel bad for the C-182, but the rest is pure barnstorming out of yesteryear. That bygone era is an important part of our aviation heritage. I imagine the bureaucrats didn’t like aviator fun back then either. There is little wrong with a little fun now and again. Lightening up and enjoying what’s left of our liberty is a good thing.

    • The mistakes they made, though, were 1) asking for permission, being denied, and then doing it anyway – they probably should have done it without asking to keep it off the radar 2) recording the event to document themselves breaking the law and then posting it on social media. Stupid is as stupid does.

    • Tim, if you watch the movie “The Great Waldo Pepper,” you’ll get a taste of the barnstorming done back then. There was no CGI, no green screen, all action on the movie was live, as I understand it. And, haha, you’ll also get a view of the then-CAA’s attitude toward barnstorming: clamp down and regulate it. I get your point about enjoying the bravado of this stunt, but it seems a stretch to connect this event with STEM promotion for younger folks. It seems more like an isolated attempt at setting a record. That said, I will be going to Oshkosh this year to rub shoulders with my fellow aviators and watch some aviation derring-do from behind the flight line.

    • Many people now believe that if something is “unsafe” it should be illegal. Same folks NEED government officials to protect them and “go after” all those people doing things they wouldn’t do. To disobey any government directive is to suffer SEVERELY. They need to be told what they can and can’t do in order to live a happy life.

  18. I love how people record themselves breaking the law and then post it on social media. It certainly makes law enforcement and trying cases a lot easier.

    • Gives police needed help.

      One idjit bragged to a Uber driver about being in the Jan 6 invasion of Congress, good citizen driver ‘dropped a dime’ to police.

      Near me a jerk filmed his speedometer weaving in and out of traffic at 300 km/h.

      Police identified the motorcycle by a feature added to the dash, but could not prove he was the driver, in part as the motorcycle was registered to his denso mother.

      But Mexican border guards refused him entry for a wedding do, saying ‘vroom, vroom.

  19. This was heavily promoted and offered as a live event on Hulu. What I had read in news leading up to this event was that it had an FAA waiver or exemption which I thought inane. Now we know that the press mislead everyone about that. At least the FAA would have known as much and possibly could have acted to halt the event.

  20. How will we ever get a human on the surface of Mars if we can’t experiment and push the envelope, damn it?

    Seriously, if I were a deranged leader of a foreign country, and had my spys watching idiocy like this, and the commercials for candy flavored beer and whisky, and ANY commercial promoting ANY show on MTV….I would say to myself “Vlad….the time is NOW!! Let’s get those T-34’s rolling”.

    • Id say the better motivation would be the adversarial military’s focus on gender pronouns and offers of mental health counseling over state bills preventing the grooming of K-3rd graders.

  21. These numbskulls already have it set to music:

    • Thanks for the link. I liked it no matter what the handwringers are saying. Just sad they lost a beautiful fat tire 182.

  22. It’s called a stunt for a reason. Baumgartner jumped out of a ballon from space for god’s sakes. It was a stunt, but a well planned one. This was a well planned stunt that didn’t work out. No one was hurt except the plane. I don’t care about their certificates and it was their plane to destroy. FAA wants to investigate fine, let them. But to berate them as they are just stupid is, well stupid.

    I see more stupid pilot “stunts” at my uncontrolled field all the time, and they’re not trying or they are and not trained, practiced, etc.

    Risk and reward. They knew it and will pay for it somehow. Doesn’t make pilots or aviation look bad. Folks like dare devils and those that do risk stuff they would never try. But the the guy at the airport the other day who thought he could take off in 1500′ feet OVC and scud run, with his family, that’s a stupid f’n stunt. FAA won’t hear about it until he’s killed himself and his family.

  23. Think about this for a moment. The guy jumped out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute. The airplane then crashed and had cameras mounted on it filming the whole time. Haven’t we seen this kind of thing recently? 😉

  24. So if the swap had been successful, then these guys would have been lauded as heroes for sticking it to the gov. Just like the Aussie pilot who keeps flying despite his license being revoked 39 times. Which is it?

    I think these guys planned it assuming the FAA would approve, and had pressure to deliver it after finding out they got denied. The show had to go on so they went ahead and flubbed it.

    Yeah they need accountability for snubbing the FAA and I’m sure they’ll get it.

    • Im in agreement with accountability. I believe we as a society are tremendously over regulated and over burdened with fools in government telling us how we are to live our lives but I also understand that we can’t be an unregulated society where anything goes. I also believe that if you poke the bull be prepared to get the horns and don’t whine about it later.

  25. As an old and never bold pilot I have sat on Martin Bakers splendid emergency let down aid for over 1000 hours, never quite had to use it, as that would have meant the loss of my Hunter. Only fools and soldiers jump out of serviceable airplanes, in my humble opinion! I await the skydiving world comments.

    • I can give you the humorous rejoinders, such as…

      “If riding in a plane is called ‘flying’ then sitting in a boat should be called ‘swimming’. If you want to experience the element, get out of the vehicle.”

      But the fact remains that everyone has a different level of risk versus reward. As the late, great philosopher George Carlin noted, “when driving on the highway, everyone slower than you is an idiot, and everyone faster than you is a maniac.” Along those lines there are many people that would argue you are crazy for even leaving Terra Firma in any vehicle (“the more Firma, the less Terra!”) And flying a plane that is so dangerous as to need an ejection seat?! Sheer folly!

      Of course pilots think such people are silly and ignorant. Skydivers call such people “whuffos” (as in ‘whuffo ya jump outta planes?’).

      For more study on the subject I suggest reading “the lesson of the moth” by Don Marquis.