Monday, April 25, 2022

Cessna 182G Skylane, N3694U: Accident occurred April 24, 2022 in Eloy, Pinal County, Arizona

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona 

Para Tactics LLC

Location: Eloy, Arizona
Accident Number: WPR22LA165
Date and Time: April 24, 2022, 18:45 Local
Registration: N3694U
Aircraft: Cessna 182G
Injuries: N/A
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna 
Registration: N3694U
Model/Series: 182G 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCGZ,1462 ft msl
Observation Time: 18:56 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 18 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C /-14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 320°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Eloy, AZ 
Destination: Eloy, AZ

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: N/A 
Latitude, Longitude: 32.661915,-111.71015 (est)

Aircraft was part of an exhibition event conducted by Red Bull, pilot exited and aircraft went into a spin impacting desert terrain. 

Date: 24-APR-22
Time: 00:45:00Z
Regis#: N3694U
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 182
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: OTHER
City: ELOY

The Federal Aviation Administration this week revoked pilot certificates for the two men involved in a Red Bull-sponsored plane swap that resulted in a crash last month.

Luke Aikins, the lead pilot for the stunt, had requested an FAA exemption in February from a federal law requiring that aircraft be manned by a pilot at all times. He argued in his request that the planned plane swap was in the "public interest" as it was meant to raise awareness for science, technology, engineering and math fields and encourage students to pursue careers in STEM.

But two days before the stunt, the FAA denied Aikins' request, saying it "would not be in the public interest and cannot find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety."

Despite the rejection, Aikins and partner Andy Farrington, who is also his cousin, went on to attempt the plane swap on April 24 — while they were being live-streamed online — but they failed, causing one of the single-engine Cessnas to crash. Neither pilot was harmed.

The FAA described their behavior as "careless or reckless so as to endanger the life or property of another," according to letters to both men dated Tuesday, notifying them of the revocations.

The agency also proposed a $4,932 fine against Aikins for "abandoning his pilot’s seat and operating an aircraft in a reckless manner."

Red Bull said in a statement on Thursday that "this is a matter between the Federal Aviation Administration and the two pilots. Luke and Andy are courageous, highly skilled athletes who have been friends of Red Bull for many years and we look forward to their continued friendship."

Aikins and Farrington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a previous statement on social media, Aikins said he would be cooperating with the agency in its review and acknowledged that "as project lead and chief pilot, it was entirely my responsibility to operate within the regulatory framework to ensure a successful outcome."

He said then that he was aware of the FAA's denial of his exemption before attempting the swap: "I made the personal decision to go forward ... I regret not sharing this information with my team and those who supported me."

Both pilots must surrender their pilot certificates "immediately," the FAA said this week. Because of this, both Aikins and Farrington cannot fly legally.

The agency noted, however, that an appeals process is available for the revocations and that Aikins could participate in an "informal conference" regarding the possible fine.

He and Farrington cannot apply for or be issued new airman certificates for one year.

ELOY, Arizona — The pilot in charge during a forbidden Red Bull plane-swapping stunt said Friday he takes full responsibility for the ensuing crash over the Arizona desert.

Luke Aikins, the lead pilot, admitted in a post on his Instagram that he disregarded a denial from the Federal Aviation Administration two days before Sunday's mid-air crash.

“I 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 wrote.

He said he would cooperate fully with the FAA and any other regulatory agencies.

Aikins and another pilot flew separate Cessna 182 airplanes up to 14,000 feet (4 kilometers) Sunday evening as part of a stunt to promote the energy drink company. They tried to switch planes as the aircraft descended.

One plane spun out of control and crashed near Eloy, roughly 65 miles (104 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix. The pilot was able to parachute out safely. The second pilot regained control of the other plane and landed safely.

It was not clear what possible penalties Aikins could face. Elizabeth Isham Cory, an FAA spokeswoman, said the agency does not comment on open investigations. But the FAA provided a copy of a letter denying Aikins' request.

Aikins had petitioned for an exemption from the rule that pilots must be at the helm with safety belts fastened at all times. He argued the stunt would “be in the public interest because it would promote aviation in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Robert Carty, FAA deputy executive director of flight standards service, denied the exemption.

Red Bull, known for organizing wild promotional stunts, said in a statement it looks forward to continuing to work with Aikins. The company called him a “courageous, highly skilled athlete” who has been honest about his role in the incident.

Plane swap stunt ends in crash over Arizona after feds denied initial safety exemption request

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating an "attempted Red Bull Plane Swap" in Arizona that ended in a crash when one of the two planes involved spun out of control on April 24.

"One of the two Cessna 182 aircraft used in the stunt crashed after it spun out of control. The pilot landed safely by parachute. The other pilot regained control of the second aircraft and landed safely," the FAA said.

The administration previously denied the request from Red Bull which asked for an exemption from feds to do the stunt, although it violates safe airplane operation protocols.

Red Bull explained its stunt, saying on its website, "On Sunday, April 24th, Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington will go down in history as the first pilots to take off in one aircraft and land in another after sending their airplanes into a nosedive and jumping out of them!"

Adding, "Plane Swap has been a year in the making with hours and hours put in by Luke, Andy, Paulo and Aaron Fitzgerald the Aerial Coordinator to ensure the plan goes off without a hitch."

The FAA provided its denial letter and in the letter, it stated, "The FAA has considered the petition, and finds that granting an exemption from § 91.105(a) would not be in the public interest and cannot find that the proposed operation would not adversely affect safety."

Continuing, the FAA further explained the reasoning for the denial, saying, "The FAA does not evaluate these deficiencies in greater detail because the petitioner does not provide a sufficient public interest case. Additionally, granting the petitioner’s request for relief would be contrary to previous denials of requests for relief from the same regulation to allow the flight crew to leave the flight deck and airplane during the operation of the airplane so as to allow the airplane to simulate a crash landing.

Second, the FAA has determined that a grant of exemption is not in the public interest for the proposed operation. The petitioner states that he has been conducting the operation in compliance with FAA regulations by having an additional pilot on board the airplane designated as PIC while the airplane swap described in the petition for exemption occurs. Because the FAA cannot conclude that the operations for which relief is sought (i.e., an operation without a pilot in the airplane and at the controls) would not adversely affect safety, and because the petitioner can continue to perform this demonstration in compliance with FAA regulations by including an additional pilot for each airplane, there is no public interest in granting the exemption request."


  1. So if I read this correctly, this stunt was not approved and Red Bull (and associated pilots) did it anyway. This would lead me to believe that Red Bull is going to be fined and any pilot involved would have their certificate revoked.

    1. Notice that Luke Aikins is listed as the petitioner and one of the two who would be flying under the exemption. Aikins was the guy who did that freefall into a net from 25,000' MSL.

      Red Bull's involvement doesn't include the actual rulebreaking.

      Read about Dwain Weston's 2003 wingsuit flight collision with the Royal Gorge bridge and be thankful that something similar didn't happen this time.

  2. Stupidest thing I ever heard of in aviation. I hope Redbull get huge fine for their disregard of safety and rule of law.

  3. was kinda cool to see a 182 do an inverted spin though...

  4. It is no different, or any less stupid than what Trevor Jacob did. Hopefully for the safety of the rest of the aviation community, as well as anyone on the ground unfortunate enough to be in the area of uncontrolled aircraft, the two pilots involved will be revoked.

    1. Not disagreeing that they shouldn't have ignored the FAA ruling, BUT it's completely different from what Trevor Jacob did. 1) Redbull was completely upfront about what they planned to do and did not lie and put out false statements. 2) They did not set out with the intention to purposely crash the plane. 3) They had multiple safety systems including a BRS parachute system on both aircraft to reduce risks. 4) They did not attempt to conceal or destroy evidence related to the accident afterward.

      Also, no one was on the ground in the area of the uncontrolled aircraft. They picked the test area specifically for that reason.

    2. Correct!. For reference, the zoomed in AdsbExchange track link below shows what was captured for both aircraft, focused where the start of the dive appears to begin around 01:33:30Z. The GPS coordinates locating the apparent start of the dive are of interest:,a3679f&lat=32.663&lon=-111.718&zoom=16.4&showTrace=2022-04-25&leg=1&trackLabels

      Here is the map-pinned location of those GPS coordinates, just West of private Sawtooth Airport AZ04 at Eloy, AZ where Skydive Arizona operates:

      It really was just another Trevor Jacob style event, with a better known sponsor and some pre-event hype added to increase the views.

  5. I'm curious, though, ignoring any safety or legal aspects-
    How do you trim a 182 to descend and match the "descent profile" of a free falling human? I picture the human going almost vertical, unless wearing one of those flying squirrel suits.
    I don't think you could trim one to descend that also wouldn't stay below Vne for long, it would accelerate away from the humans.
    Maybe I'll try it soon, you can read about me! Nah.. I won't.

    1. There was a plate added between the main landing gear that was swung down to produce drag and limit speed during the dive.

    2. They had a large "speed brake" attached the bottom of the planes to keep the speed down.

  6. Was this restricted airspace? Or could some student pilot on a cross country solo have encountered the pilotless out of control a/c?

    1. Not restricted at all. And in fact, some Embry Riddle student on an IFR flight plan DID fly right in front of them, 1000' below, less than a minute before they attempted the swap!,a8d265&lat=32.666&lon=-111.755&zoom=14.2&showTrace=2022-04-25&trackLabels&timestamp=1650850305

  7. I forgot to set my reminder to watch this event streamed online. Oh well. My question is how in the HELL do you get a 182 into an inverted spin without a lot of work? It takes a lot of work/error to even get a normal spin going in a 182 (or especially even a 172 for that matter).

    1. Went unstable from the speed brake plate added between the main landing gear. Should have used a jettisonable drogue chute like the Space Shuttle used after landing.

  8. Well, I always thought anyone who drank Red Bull was a doofus....and now it turns out the brand as a whole is run by idiots who somehow thought this was a good idea. Looks like I made a good decision.

    1. All of those energy drinks are bad for your cardiovascular and nervous system. Straight up colas with caffeine aren't as bad for you. I remember back in the 1985 there was a new rage called "Jolt" cola introduced that was advertised with the slogan "all the sugar and twice the caffeine" or something close to that. It was America's first true energy drink but not marketed as such. They are all bad news for health and definitely a contributor to America's declining health starting with increased diabetes and high blood pressure. Nothing but poison for the body and in this case poison for the brain.

  9. So they could have done it legally by having safety pilots in each plane while they swapped but chose to disregard that common sense and destroy a perfectly good 182 in the process, all for views and glory and a sense of "risk taking".
    In that sense they are no different than Trevor's selfish stunt that also destroyed a perfectly good little plane.
    A safety pilot would have been more than useful in averting that bad spin too which proves the FAA was perfectly justified in asking for one and denying the exemption if not adhered to.
    Violation of 91.13... Careless and reckless operation of an aircraft it is. Guilty and no recourse.

    1. Yes, but the stunt scenario of skydivers making their way into a piloted plane had already been done, so this was the next step in the risk ratchet. Go look at wingsuit videos and see the same risk progression. One wingsuiter flies through a hole in an outcrop, others fly downslope close to the ground. The collision with the Royal Gorge bridge and multiple other deaths took the shine off promotion of those activities.

    2. Well what's the difference between the skydivers being pilot and taking over the controls? For visuals purpose they could have hidden the safety pilots in the video to make it look as if the plane was empty. And make the safety pilots sign NDAs where they would not advertise being in the planes.
      The waiver was denied and they basically went full on illegal. If you can't do the time don't do the time...

    3. Showing properly the jumper at the controls prior to bailing out and also the other jumper coming back in would mean that the hidden safety pilot wasn't already up front at the controls.

      Imagine being the safety pilot hiding in the back and trying to go forward to get on the controls during that spin. Getting tossed out the door opening while trying to get seated to save the aircraft is a possibility, and so is getting tossed out with your OSHA safety harness tethering you to the machine for a wild ride outside all the way to the surface.

      "The mood of the group was somber as they drew straws to see who would be the two hidden safety pilots..."

  10. All so they can promote their unhealthy drinks. Fine the pilots and revoke their licenses. Idiots.

  11. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.
    In addition to a well deserved upcoming revocation of all of their licenses I hope the state of Arizona has the good sense to adds criminal charges of reckless endangerment.
    “Hey fellas, hold my beer and watch this”!

    1. Reckless endangerment charges greater than a misdemeanour seems unlikely. Arizona's R-E statute mentions substantial risk of imminent death in order to be a felony :

      No word yet on whether there was a smushed member of the Sonoran Desert Endangered Species under that crumpled C182.

  12. Stupid stunt just for applause and more sponsors. Die if you wish - just don't expect me to watch...

  13. That’s part of the American Spirit to attempt what others would call crazy. It looks like they took all the necessary precautions to protect others. The Wright brothers were considered crazy by their peers yet look how far aviation has come since then. Who knows all the ideas and informative about flight these guys learned from this flight? Looks like companies are all ready using this info to develop a chute system for small planes that could save lives of dumber pilots in general aviation. Who cares what some misguided FAA opinion says. The government clearly does not have any of our best interests. Ie Covid Plandemic.

    1. That is really a dumb comment. Rules are written in blood and common sense dictates a pilot is always at the control. One of the plane started to spin but it could also have gone out of control and sliced the skydiver with its propeller right when it was close... Common sense ain't so common like the old adage says.

    2. "That’s part of the American Spirit to attempt what others would call crazy."

      There's also an old saying that bears some repeating here: "when everyone else is standing away from the edge of the cliff, that's probably not the time to peak over the side to see why".

  14. As pilots, we answer to a higher authority which knows that we have brains and expects us to be able to use them. This is why the FAR's were created, and permission was denied. Let's also remember how the non-flying public might look at us because of this stupid stunt.

    1. Very unfavorably as far as I am concerned.

  15. Swap planes in midair? How drunk do you have to be to think that is a good idea?

  16. They should have just done it in Mexico when the FAA denied them. That's what the Discovery channel did when they wanted to crash a 727 and the FAA said no. Mexico don't care as long as you fork over enough dinero.

  17. Additional video:

    The FAA is "actively" seeking these two pilots for interviews.

    The helicopter (N154EH) seen towards the end of the video clip is based at my home airport in Louisiana. I see it regularly around the area. Here is a pic of it flying inverted.

  18. Martha Lunken got the smack down for flying under a bridge, but it wasn't a decision to defy a refused exception. Will be interesting to see the outcome this time now that Pilot Aikins has stepped up and taken responsibility.

  19. Oh, you can be sure they will both lose their flying privileges.

  20. Revocation listed above and...