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Central Coast serves as training ground for daring skydiving stunt

Two pilots will skydive from one plane to another over the skies of Arizona this weekend and the stunt has strong ties to the Central Coast.
Posted at 11:35 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-23 15:14:52-04

Two pilots will skydive from one plane to another over the skies of Arizona this weekend and the stunt has strong ties to the Central Coast.

The Central Coast served as the training grounds for this Sunday's Red Bull plane swap, with flights taking off from both the San Luis Obispo and the Oceano airports.

"Plane swap's finally here, we're getting ready to make this thing happen and it's been so much work and such a big group of people," said Skydiver Luke Aikins. "You wanna do it for yourself but you also don't want to let anybody down."

Aikins and his cousin, Andy Farrington, plan to intentionally set their planes into a nosedive at 14,000 ft. They will then jump out and skydive into the other plane, all while in mid-air freefall and nose-diving toward earth at 140 miles per hour.

"When it's time for the real one on Sunday, leaving the airplane behind by itself and flying back into another one, that's going to be one of the most surreal experiences," said Farrington. "When you're getting close to that plane and seeing that there is not a soul in there, it's gonna be pretty wild."

The two then plan to regain control of each plane before landing safely on the ground.

The stunt was made possible thanks to expertise from a Cal Poly professor. KSBY caught up with Paulo Iscold, who is the main aeronautical engineer for the plane swap.

"It's a challenge, it's a difficult project but that's what I like to do, that's what brings excitement to my professional life," said Iscold.

Iscold developed the speed brake that will keep the planes from reaching an out-of-control velocity and disintegrating mid-air.

He also developed the auto-pilot system which had its own set of challenges.

"There is no autopilot in the world that is able to fly airplanes going straight down, so we had to develop the whole system," said Iscold.

Aikins described the role that both physics and engineering played in the project.

"We test it, we design it on the ground and we have to go up and prove this in the air," he said. "To have an engineer on the project who actually gets his hands dirty, he didn't just design the system, he's building it and it's been unbelievable, the information and the knowledge that I've learned."

Learning by doing, is now leaving a lasting impression on two world-famous skydivers.

"I think a little bit of it is starting to rub off on Luke, that's the joke around here that luke likes a little bit more of the zeros and ones now and all the computer graphs and everything," said Farrington. "Before, Luke would look at a computer and pretty much walk the other way."

Aikins hopes that the stunt inspires young people to get into the fields of science and engineering.

The plane swap will be live-streamed on Hulu and Red Bull TV on Sunday at four in the afternoon.