The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the licenses of two pilots who attempted to switch planes in the skies over the Arizona desert last month.
In addition to Tuesday’s withdrawal order, the FAA has also fined Luke Aikins, who the agency named the lead pilot, $4,932 for leaving his pilot seat and operating his plane in a “careless and reckless manner.” after an investigation was announced shortly afterwards. the stunt of April 24.
Aikins and Andy Farrington, a fellow sky diver and pilot, planned to send their single-engine Cessna 182 planes into synchronized dives at 14,000 feet, then jump out to switch cockpits in mid-air.
But when they tried to make the transfer while flying over the desert in Eloy, Arizona, Mr. Farrington was unable to board the plane Mr. Aikins had jumped off, according to an FAA emergency order. The plane got out of control and crashed nearby, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. There were no spectators and no one was injured in the stunt, which was livestreamed by Hulu.
In an Instagram post five days later, Mr. Aikins admitted that he had received an email from the FAA denying a request to exempt him from federal aviation regulations, saying he would work “transparently” with regulators. “I have made the personal decision to move forward with the plane swap,” he said in the post. “I regret not sharing this information with my team and those who have supported me.”
Red Bull, the energy drink company, called the event “Plane Swap” and advertised it as a “first jump of its kind.” A Red Bull spokesman called the revocation of the license an issue between the agency and Mr Aikins and Mr Farrington, saying the company looked forward to its “ongoing friendship” with the two pilots. Both pilots are still listed as members on the website of the Red Bull Air Force, a team specializing in aerial stunts.
Red Bull called the stunt “partially accomplished” with Mr Aikins switching planes and landing safely. Mr Farrington was unable to get into the other plane and jumped to the ground safely, the company said.
Both planes had to slow down so the jumpers could catch up with them, and they had to stay steady enough for the air divers to squeeze into a door about the width of a home refrigerator, Red Bull said.
Mr Aikins, Mr Farrington and Hulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The FAA said in its recall letters that Mr. Aikins and Mr. Farrington had violated federal aviation regulations requiring pilots to remain at their stations, remain “vigilant” and not operate aircraft in a “careless” or “reckless” manner. The pilots must “immediately” surrender their certificates to fly commercial aircraft, or else pay a $1,644 fine for each day they hold the licenses.
Both men will have to relinquish most of the other FAA certifications they have, including Mr. Aikins’ license to fly drones and Mr. Farrington’s license to set up parachutes. They can appeal the agency’s decision until next Friday.
In Mr. Aikins’ request to the FAA earlier this year, he asked for an exemption because “during the swap, both aircraft will be unoccupied.” The agency said in an April 22 response and signed by Robert C. Carty, the FAA’s deputy executive director for flight standards, that granting a waiver “would not be in the public interest” and the agency “could not find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety.”
The FAA announced the actions against the two pilots nearly a month after it said it had revoked the pilot’s license of Trevor Jacob, a daredevil YouTuber, who last year posted a video of himself jumping from a plane it claimed was didn’t work properly. The agency said investigations revealed he deliberately abandoned the plane and caused it to crash in Southern California’s Los Padres National Forest.