Skydivers Luke Aikins and Andy Farrington aim to switch planes mid-air in “Plane Swap.”
“Plane Swap” is live on Eurosport and Discovery+ from 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. on April 25
“Plane Swap” is the first time in aviation history that a pilot takes off in one plane and lands in another. The concept is an Aikins brainchild that was inspired by a 1990s photo in an aviation publication and manifested over a lifetime.
The Washington native is always looking for ways to use science and engineering to push the sport to new heights. In 2016, he set a new world record in freefall from the tropospheric mean altitude of 25,000 feet without a parachute, landing in a carefully constructed 30m x 30m net. This is one of three world records he holds.
Meanwhile, Andy Farrington, also from Washington, was born to fly. Raised in a family of skydivers, his mother, Jessie, did about 100 jumps with Andy in utero. Andy made his first tandem jump at 12, went solo at 16 and has since become king of the skies, having racked up over 27,000 jumps, 1,000 BASE jumps and 6,000 hours as a pilot.
Hours of research and development have gone into the modifications needed to ensure the feat is possible, with world-renowned aeronautical engineer Dr Paulo Iscold partnering with Aikins and Farrington to serve as lead engineer. and solve the problem of how to produce a controlled vertical descent – the exact opposite of how autopilot systems are designed to work.
This required the reverse engineering of the autopilot mechanics and resulted in a specially designed belly-installed airbrake system that will keep the planes at a controlled descent speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) that closely matches the paratroopers’ rate of descent.
“The peak of my career”
“Plane Swap is the pinnacle of my career,” Aikins said. “My goal is to inspire the world and show that anything is possible. You can focus on something that sometimes seems wild, crazy and unattainable, but with ambition and creativity you can make it happen.”
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