Aviation history was made last weekend after a pilot blasted through a tunnel in an airplane averaging a blistering speed of 245 kilometers (152 miles) per hour, breaking multiple records.
Dario Costa, a 41-year-old stunt pilot from Italy, flew in an aircraft through two of the Çatalca Tunnels — one after another — near the Turkish capital of Istanbul just after sunrise on Saturday, September 4, 2021. Feast your eyes on the footage of the nail-biting flight below
This is the first time an airplane has ever flown through a tunnel (it doesn't count if you've done it on GTA), as well as the first airplane flight through two tunnels and the longest flight under a solid obstacle. The feat, sponsored by Red Bull, also earned a Guinness World Record for the longest tunnel flown through in an airplane at a length of 1,730 meters (5,675 feet).
The tight-space tunnel left little margin for error. Costa’s plane had to maintain a distance between 70 centimeters and 1.6 meters (~2 to 5 feet) above the asphalt to avoid crashing. In terms of width, there was an average of just 4 meters (13 feet) between the wingtip and the wall on each side.
Another critical portion of the flight was the 360-meter-long (1,181 feet) open-air gap between the two tunnels. While you might assume this portion of the flight was the easy bit, Costa had to battle against crosswinds and prepare for the next thread into the second tunnel.
“Everything seemed to be happening so fast, but when I got out of the first tunnel, the plane started to move to the right because of the crosswinds and in my head, everything slowed down in that moment," Costa said in a statement. "I reacted and just focused on getting the plane back on the right path to enter the other tunnel. Then in my mind, everything sped up all over again.”
The plane also had to be in tip-top shape. The aircraft was a Zivko Edge 540 V2 that included numerous modifications for the flight, including Formula One seat design, weight reductions, and an artificial "sharkskin" to reduce drag and improve efficiency.
However, the flight was as much one of human achievement as it was an engineering feat. On top of his 5,000 flight hours of experience, Costa was permitted to drive a car through the tunnel at 270 kilometers (167 miles) per hour ahead of his attempt to get a “feel” for the ride and was trained on numerous different simulations. He also underwent neurocognitive training at Red Bull Athlete Performance Center to ensure his reaction times were razor sharp.
These efforts paid off: Costa is now a multi-world recorder holder and an extremely happy guy.
“I’d never flown in a tunnel in my life – nobody had ever done it – so there was a big question mark in my head whether everything would go as we expected,” said Costa. “It was a big relief, of course, but big, big happiness was the main emotion. For me, it’s another dream come true.”