British pilots Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones have become the first people in the world to fly planes in formation through a building, in one of the most exhilarating aviation feats ever seen.
The pilots, who have been flying together for more than 17 years, used every ounce of that experience as they descended to a height of just 1 metre above the ground to fly through a hangar measuring just 7.6 metres high, at more than 160 knots (185 mph).
Speaking shortly after the first flight through the hangar, Bonhomme, who will be racing in the British stop of the Red Bull Air Race at Ascot in August, said: “Ultimately if we get it wrong we hit a building so pulling up and seeing Steve still there, there was a great sense of relief, but it was really great fun and also slightly bizarre flying through a building with my mate.”
As wingman to Bonhomme, Steve Jones spent half of his time looking across at the other plane as the hangar approached. Speaking about the moments before he flew through the hangar for the first time, Jones said: “There is nothing that quite compares to that feeling when you are 200 yards from the hangar and you’ve got no options, you’re completely hemmed in and you just need to check you’re in line with the gap in the building and press on through it.”
As the Xtreme Air XA41 plane flown by Jones and Bonhomme has a wingspan of 7.5 metres, the British duo also had just 10 metres either side of them as they flew through the hangar in North Wales.
The hangar, based at Llanbedr Airfield in North Wales, was spotted more than six months ago and identified as a possible location for the duo, who had both wondered if the feat was possible for a number of years having been inspired by Barnstorming pilots of the early 1900’s, but had been unable to find a suitable location.
Due to the nature of the challenge the pilots were required to request special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, who were on site to oversee them attempt the move.
Bonhomme, who is two times Red Bull Air Race World Champion, will be taking on a different type of challenge on UK shores in August as he takes part in the world’s fastest motorsport, the Red Bull Air Race at Ascot Racecourse.