Pilot of Arizona Red Bull plane’s botched stunt apologizes

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ELOY, Ariz. (AP) — The pilot responsible during a banned Red Bull plane-swap stunt said Friday he takes full responsibility for the ensuing crash over the eastern desert. Arizona.

Lead pilot Luke Aikins admitted in a post on his Instagram that he had ignored a denial from the Federal Aviation Administration two days before Sunday’s mid-air crash.

“I have made a personal decision to move forward with (the) aircraft swap. I regret not sharing this information with my team and those who have supported me,” Aikins wrote.

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

Aikins and another pilot flew separate Cessna 182 single-engine planes up to 14,000 feet (4 kilometers) on Sunday night as part of a stunt to promote the energy drink company. They tried to switch planes as the plane was descending.

A plane lost control and crashed near Eloy, about 104 kilometers southeast of Phoenix. The pilot was able to parachute safely. The second pilot regained control of the other aircraft and landed safely.

It was unclear 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 asked for a waiver of the rule that pilots must be at the helm with seatbelts fastened at all times. He argued that the stunt would be “in the public interest as it would promote aviation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics”.

Robert Carty, deputy executive director of the FAA’s Flight Standards Department, refused the exemption.

Red Bull, known for staging crazy promotional stunts, said in a statement it looked forward to continuing to work with Aikins. The company called him a “brave and highly skilled athlete” who was candid about his role in the incident.

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