While most of Europe was still in bed at the weekend, Italian stunt pilot Dario Costa got up early, climbed into his aeroplane and, apropos of nothing, flew it through two Turkish motorway tunnels, becoming the first person on Earth to do so.
The flight, which took place through the Çatalca Tunnels on the Northern Marmara Highway east of Istanbul, broke the world record for the longest tunnel ever flown through in an aeroplane, an incongruous title which up until this point has not been hotly contested.
The flight – which began in the shorter Çatalca-2 tunnel then emerged into the open air before again plunging into the longer 1,638m (5,374ft) Çatalca-1 section – covered 2.26km in total (1.4 miles) and lasted for 43.44 seconds, which when you watch the video is a disturbingly long time for an aircraft to be underground [see below].
The aircraft involved was a Zivko Edge 540, a diminutive American-built aerobatics and racing aircraft capable of a staggering roll rate of 420° per second and a climb rate of 3,700ft per minute, two attributes which would appear actively unhelpful for the purposes of flying on a dead-straight course through a tunnel, especially given that the aircraft had only four metres of clearance beyond each wingtip and was 70 to 160cm from the road surface for the whole flight.
The undoubtedly impressive if somewhat unnecessary flight was sponsored as a promotional stunt by energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, although Costa’s surname means that he may have inadvertently broken another world record for “Most caffeinated drink companies mentioned in description of a single attention-grabbing stunt.”
The Zivko reportedly averaged 245kph (152mph) through the second, longer tunnel. Which we at The Register would say is quite enough for anybody.
For his part, Costa claims to have been “dreaming of the Tunnel Pass for years,” which perhaps demonstrates why you shouldn’t consume large quantities of highly caffeinated energy drinks before going to bed.
Costa’s heavily sponsored joyride is of course not the first time that someone has flown an aircraft somewhere it arguably shouldn’t have been in order to attract the world’s attention.
On 5 April 1968, Royal Air Force pilot Alan Pollock decided to stage his own protest against the refusal of the UK’s Ministry of Defence to stage an official celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the RAF’s founding. He therefore absconded in his Hawker Hunter jet from a flight of his fellow pilots from the RAF’s No 1 Squadron, then diverted to London, where he flew down the Thames at a height of 150ft, did three very loud circuits of the Houses of Parliament (ironically during a debate about noise abatement) and then to cap it all, flew his jet between the spans of Tower Bridge.
Unlike the adulation which has greeted Costa’s efforts, Pollock’s impromptu display led to his immediate arrest on his return to No 1 Squadron’s base at RAF West Raynham. He was handily released from the service on medical grounds before he could face a court martial which would undoubtedly have been very embarrassing for the ministry.
We have asked Red Bull if they are considering repeating the Tunnel Pass, perhaps with a biplane carrying a wingwalker flown by the pilot who crashed his into Poole Harbour at the weekend.
We have yet to hear back from them, but we will update the story as soon as we do. ®