Italy's Dario Costa concentrates ahead of his Tunnel Pass flight
© Eros Maggi/Red Bull Content Pool
Aerobatic Flying

All the facts on Dario Costa’s record-setting Tunnel Pass flight

Dario Costa's Tunnel Pass flight wrote a new chapter in aviation history. Here’s all the inside info on his incredible accomplishment.
Written by Trish Medalen
3 min readPublished on
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Dario Costa

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Pilot: Dario Costa, 41, professional race and stunt pilot from Italy
Project: Tunnel Pass
Location: Çatalca Tunnels (Northern Marmara Highway, outside Istanbul, Turkey)
Italy's Dario Costa flies in the Tunnel Pass project outside Istanbul, Turkey.
Italy's Dario Costa flies in Tunnel Pass
Date/time: Takeoff at 6:43am local time (TRT) on Saturday, September 4, 2021
Distance from takeoff to exit of second tunnel: 2,260m/2.26km
Flight duration: 43.44 seconds
Top speed: Average of 245.07kph in second tunnel
  • Avg. 4.0m between wing tip and wall on each side
  • Flightpath – minimum 70 centimetres, maximum 1.6 metres above the asphalt
Pilot reaction time to changes in airflow: Less than 250 milliseconds
Aircraft: Zivko Edge 540 V2, with modifications including:
  • Formula One seat concept
  • Weight reductions
  • Human-made 'sharkskin' to reduce drag and improve efficiency and lift
  • Laser measurement system for training
Guinness World Record: Longest tunnel flown through with an aeroplane: (1,730m)
Other notable records:
  • First aeroplane flight through a tunnel
  • Longest flight under a solid obstacle (1,730m)
  • First aeroplane flight through two tunnels
  • First aeroplane takeoff from a tunnel
Preparation period: Over one year
Size of core project team: 40 people
Mentor: Hungarian aerobatic and racing pilot Péter Besenyei, an aviation legend
Training centre: Red Bull Athlete Performance Center (APC), Salzburg, Austria
What kind of training did Costa go through to prepare? Physical and mental reaction times were key. Costa’s training at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center (APC) was two-fold, improving his neurocognitive skills (eg, reaction times), as well as studying simulations. To experience the speed in the actual tunnels, he was also permitted to drive a car through them at 270kph ahead of his attempt.
What kinds of technology were used for training? Primary among several technology tools was a simulation that bionic surface technologies created by precisely measuring the tunnel dimensions and making a 3D scan of Costa’s aircraft, which showed exactly how he needed to fly and in what timeframe.
What were the most critical moments of the flight?
  • Executing a smooth liftoff, despite the inability to angle the nose upward inside the tunnel and getting airborne by the end of the first tunnel
  • Cross winds in the open-air section between tunnels
  • Entry to the second tunnel, where conditions cause an increase in the lift that required fast reaction by the pilot
  • Sizeable airwave 'bumps' inside the second tunnel
  • Change in tunnel shape partway through the second tunnel, with a resulting decrease in lift
  • Incline change in the last section of the second tunnel (uphill followed by downhill)
  • Exit of the second tunnel, where change in airflow causes a decrease in lift
Dario Costa flies through cross winds in Tunnel Pass near Istanbul, Turkey.
Italy's Dario Costa flies through cross winds in Tunnel Pass near Istanbul
Why did the flight take place early in the morning? Near dawn, the sun was at Costa’s back rather than in his eyes during the open-air portions of the flight. Further, the temperature difference between the interior and exterior of the tunnels is typically at its lowest early in the day, which minimises the effects of air-pressure waves for a more smooth and stable flight. Weather stations were installed inside and outside the tunnels to inform Costa of conditions ahead of his attempt.
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Dario Costa

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