On Sunday, April 24, two pilots, skydivers and cousins Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington, will try something quite extraordinary: switching planes while in mid-air. The feat, sponsored by Redbull, has been 10 years in the making and will be the first time in aviation history a pilot will take off in one plane and land in another.
The stunt, which will be streamed live on Hulu, will see Aikins and Farrington pilot their respective Cessna 182s to an altitude of about 4.3 kilometers (14,000 feet). At this point, they will use a custom-manufactured airbrake to hold the planes in a controlled-descent speed of 225 km/h (140mph), leave their planes uncrewed, and jump out. If all goes well, they will be able to get to the other's plane, get behind the controllers, and safely land the aircraft back on the ground – all in under a minute.
"I'm in one plane, he's in the other one, nobody else. We put the planes in a dive, straight at the ground, and then I'm going to get out of my plane, he's going to get out of his plane, and we're going to swap planes mid-flight,” Aikins, whose idea it was, told CNN.
"I'm going to skydive into his, he's going to skydive into mine, I'll bring his plane back to land and he's going to bring mine."
Explained like that, it seems simple – but there’s a lot of fascinating engineering that had to be solved before that could happen. The planes need to slow down before and during the dive otherwise the wings would be ripped off.
Even though the plan is simple, getting out of one plane is pretty easy for skydivers – but flying into a falling one might not be. Check out the trailer for the dare-devil stunt here.
Redbull is no stranger to daredevil stunts, it has some of the most experienced pilots and skydivers in the world. In September last year, Italian stunt pilot Dario Costa made aviation history with the world's first tunnel flight – a nail-biting airplane flight through not one but two tunnels at a blistering 245 kilometers (152 miles) per hour. Then in December, world-renowned wingsuit flyer Sebastián 'Ardilla' Álvarez became the first person to fly in — and, crucially, back out — of an active volcano.