For many, the thought of jumping out of an aircraft will make knees shake and palms sweat. But for Red Bull pilots Luke Aikins and his cousin Andy Farrington, it is just another death-defying day at the office.
The two pilots are preparing to make history next month as they jump out of one aircraft thousands of feet off the ground and into another in the never-before-attempted Plane Swap.
On Sunday, April 24, you can catch the stunt exclusively on Hulu during a three-hour livestream.
The pilots will each fly their own specially modified 1964 Cessna 182 up to 14,000 feet in the skies over Arizona where they will then position the aircraft into a vertical nosedive before jumping out and attempting to reach the other unmanned aircraft as it hurtles towards the ground.
This seems simple… right?
In jumping out of their Cessna 182s, Aikins and Farrington will not only have to hit one another in a Criss-Cross formation but make it to the other aircraft in time to recover.
The daredevils will aim to grab onto the wing strut (the bar that connects the aircraft wing to the fuselage) to pull themselves back into an aircraft.
From there, they will restart the engine, retract the speed brake, and recover the aircraft back into a normal cruising attitude just in time to bring it in for landing.
"I really want to show the world that I'm not just a skydiver, we're not just these crazy stuntmen," said forty-eight-year-old Luke Aikins. "We can do the engineering, we can do the design, do a real flight-test program and showcase all our talents."
Watch the teaser trailer?Red Bull Air Force stunt, photo courtesy of Michael Clark / Red Bull Content Pool
Aikins has been preparing for the swap his whole life
Luke Aikins has been surrounded by aviation his entire life. Not only did he grow up on a private airport, both his father, grandfather and siblings have pilot licenses."When I was 16 or 17, there was a parachutist magazine that came out, and there was a picture of an old Stearman biplane in a dive, with a big parachute behind it slowing it down, and a skydiver in a yellow jumpsuit flying with that airplane," Aikins explained in an interview with CNN.
But Aikins didn't just want to copy the stunt from the photograph, he wanted to make it his own.
To make the stunt possible, Aikins knew he needed engineering expertise to design a way for an aircraft to fall back to the Earth without a parachute at a speed the skydivers could catch it.
Fate soon intervened, and Brazilian aeronautical engineer Paulo Iscold was brought into the fold. At the time, Iscold was working for another Red Bull Athlete but was intrigued by Aikins' crazy stunt.
Iscold's idea was to have a speed brake attached to the undercarriage of the aircraft controlled by an actuator in the flight deck. The air brake would match the speed of the descending aircraft with the skydivers, and control aerodynamic stability.
Without a speed break, the aircraft's falling speed would drastically increase to a point at which aircraft failure, such as a wing being ripped off, would likely occur.
These cousins have a wild history
This is far from Aikins' first stunt, but it is arguably one of his wildest.
In 2016, Aikins jumped out of a plane at 25,000 feet without a parachute or a wingsuit. He free-fell down before being caught by a 100-by-100-foot Dyneema net.
His cousin Farrington is the youngest member of the Red Bull Air Force team at 39 but has had plenty of experience himself. He's completed thousands of skydives and BASE jumps, as well as stunt performances in Transformers 3 and Iron Man 3.
Catch Plane Swap live on Hulu on April 24 at 7:00 p.m. EST.