FAA investigates failed Red Bull plane swap stunt that resulted in crash

A plane swap stunt, in which two pilots attempted to switch planes while midair, resulted in a crash landing in the Arizona desert over the weekend and prompted a federal investigation.

No one was injured in Sunday’s Red Bull plane swap, and pilots Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington were able to safely touch down to the ground.

Red Bull touted the event as a “world first” aviation feat and the attempt was livestreamed on Hulu.

In the planned stunt, Aikins and Farrington, cousins who are skydivers and pilots, were supposed to send their Cessna 182 planes into a tandem nosedive at 14,000 feet and jump out to switch aircrafts, Red Bull said.

Their aircraft had custom-built autopilot systems to stay on the correct trajectory and were fitted with a speed brake and larger wheels to slow the rate of descent “and ensure the skydivers can catch up to them.” The duo planned to skydive to 2,000 feet above ground level before they got into the other plane and flew up, according to the stunt breakdown.

However, one of the planes crashed during Sunday’s attempt.

“One of the two single-engine Cessna 182 aircraft used in the stunt crashed after it spun out of control,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The pilot was able to land safely by parachute.

Meanwhile, “the other pilot regained control of the second aircraft and landed safely,” the FAA said.

“The FAA will investigate Sunday evening’s attempted Red Bull Plane Swap in Arizona,” the statement said. “The agency on Friday denied the organizer’s request for an exemption from Federal regulations that cover the safe operation of an aircraft.”

NBC News obtained a copy of that denial of exemption letter by the FAA, dated April 22 and signed by Robert C. Carty, the agency’s deputy executive director for flights standards service. 

The FAA concluded that granting the exemption “would not be in the public interest” and it “cannot find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety,” according to the letter.

NBC News has reached out to Red Bull for comment.

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