An Italian stunt pilot has become the first in the world to officially fly a plane through a tunnel.
Red Bull race and stunt pilot Dario Costa fired up his specially modified Zivko Edge 540 race plane inside one of the dual Çatalca Tunnels near Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday (local time).
Astonishing footage shows Mr Costa flying through the 1160-metre second tunnel at an average speed of 245 km/h before emerging after a whirlwind flight of less than a minute through the road tunnels.
“I’d never flown in a tunnel in my life – nobody had ever done it,” he said afterwards.
Mr Costa, 41, has more than 20 years’ flying experience and has logged more than 5000 hours in the air – more than half in high-performance aerobatics.
He had dreamed of tackling Tunnel Pass for years – and it would be his most demanding and complex undertaking yet.
He took off in the dim light of the first tunnel at 6.43am (local time). The early start meant he had the sun at his back and the best light for the daring flight.
Because of the limited overhead clearance, Mr Costa had to keep his plane on a flight path just above the asphalt while also managing a margin of just four metres from the tip of each wing to the tunnel walls.
Red Bull said airflow changes in the tunnel, combined with the plane’s highly sensitive steering, required reaction times of less than 250 milliseconds as Mr Costa executed fine hand movements that adjusted his exacting flight path by mere millimetres.
One of the most critical moments came when the plane arrived at the 360-metre gap between the tunnels, and was exposed to crosswinds as Mr Costa aimed for the narrow opening of the second tunnel.
“Everything seemed to be happening so fast, but when I got out of the first tunnel, the plane started to move to the right because of the crosswinds and in my head, everything slowed down in that moment,” he said.
“I reacted and just focused on getting the plane back on the right path to enter the other tunnel. Then in my mind, everything sped up all over again.”
Shooting out the other side of the second tunnel, he pulled the light plane up into a celebratory loop before landing.
From take-off to exiting the second tunnel, the flight covered 2.26 kilometres and took less than 44 seconds.
It also knocked off four Guinness World Records. Mr Costa was presented with a certificate for the longest tunnel flown with a plane, and also holds records for the first aeroplane flight through a tunnel, longest flight under a solid obstacle, first aeroplane flight through two tunnels and first aeroplane takeoff from a tunnel.