Two pilots will parachute from plane to plane in the skies of Arizona this weekend and the stunt has strong ties to the Central Coast.
The Central Coast served as the training ground for this Sunday’s Red Bull aircraft swap, with flights taking off from San Luis Obispo and Oceano airports.
“The plane swap is finally here, we’re gearing up to make it happen and it’s been so much work and such a great group of people,” said paratrooper Luke Aikins. “You want to do it for yourself but you don’t want to let anyone down either.”
Aikins and his cousin, Andy Farrington, plan to intentionally put their planes in a dive at 14,000 feet. They will then hop and jump into the other plane, all plummeting midair and nosedown towards the ground at 140 miles per hour.
“When it’s time for the real Sunday, to leave the plane all alone and come back in another, it’s going to be one of the most surreal experiences,” Farrington said. “When you walk up to that plane and you see there’s no one in it, it’s going to be pretty wild.”
The two then plan to regain control of each plane before landing safely on the ground.
The stunt was made possible through the expertise of a Cal Poly professor. KSBY met with Paulo Iscold, who is the main aeronautical engineer for the aircraft exchange.
“It’s a challenge, it’s a difficult project but it’s what I love to do, it’s what drives my professional life,” said Iscold.
Iscold developed the Speed Brake which will prevent aircraft from reaching uncontrollable speed and disintegrating in the air.
He also developed the autopilot system which had its own set of challenges.
“There’s no autopilot in the world that can fly planes that descend directly, so we had to develop the whole system,” Iscold said.
Aikins described the role that physics and engineering played in the project.
“We test it, we design it on the ground and we have to go up and prove it in the air,” he said. “To have an engineer on the project get his hands dirty, he didn’t just design the system, he built it and it’s amazing, the information and the knowledge that I learned.”
Learning by doing now leaves a lasting impression on two world famous skydivers.
“I think a bit of that is starting to rub off on Luke, it’s the joke here that Luke likes zeros and ones a little more now and all the computer graphics and stuff,” Farrington said. “Before, Luke was looking at a computer and walking pretty much the other way.”
Aikins hopes the stunt will inspire young people to pursue science and engineering fields.
The plane swap will be broadcast live on Hulu and Red Bull TV on Sunday at four o’clock in the afternoon.