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FAA suspends licenses of two pilots involved in failed Red Bull stunt

The pilots acted in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another” during the failed mid-air swap April 24, over Arizona, the FAA said.
Luke Aikins
Pilot Luke Aikins enters the silver plane during plane swap in Eloy, Ariz., on April 24.Predrag Vuckovic / Red Bull

The Federal Aviation Administration revoked the licenses of two pilots for their "careless" and "reckless" conduct during a failed midair stunt last month in Arizona, officials said this week.

No one was injured April 24 when daredevil pilots Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington tried to jump out of separate planes into the other to land them.

“The attempted stunt resulted in the crash of one of the two single-engine Cessna 182 aircraft,” the FAA said in a statement. “The lead pilot requested an exemption for the stunt from the FAA, which the agency denied."

The pair had tried to send their Cessna 182 planes into synchronized nosedives at 14,000 feet before they jumped out to switch aircraft.

The planes were supposed to fall in tandem, allowing Aikins and Farrington, who are also skydivers, time to jump from their planes and into the other in a stunt that Red Bull billed as a "world first" and which was livestreamed on Hulu.

But one of the planes spiraled out of control and crashed in Eloy, Arizona, leading to only Aikins’ getting in the other craft while Farrington was forced to parachute.

The FAA and the stunt's lead pilot, Aikins, said the attempt could have gone forward only with an exemption from the agency. Days after the failed stunt, Aikins admitted in a statement on Instagram that the FAA had denied his request — and that he went ahead with it anyway.

The FAA denied the request April 22, and Aikins said he "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 continued. "I am now turning my attention to cooperatively working transparently with the regulatory authorities as we review the planning and execution."

In notices sent Tuesday informing the two pilots of the emergency revocations of their licenses, the FAA said both acted in a "careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another."

The pilots could apply for reinstatement in one year.

Aikins, who was also fined $4,932, and a representative of Red Bull could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. It is unclear whether Farrington was fined.

"Right now we're not available to comment on that, but hopefully we will be able to soon," Farrington said Thursday.