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Aerobatic Flying

The Volare Duet: watch stunt plane and cliff diver in perfect harmony

Red Bull Cliff Diving hit the high notes in Italy taking off with the world’s first synchronised aerobatic flight and cliff dive – all set to a musical theme.
Written by Paul Keith
5 min readPublished on
Famed race and stunt pilot Dario Costa teamed up with a select group of high divers to perform the first-ever combined display of aerobatics and cliff diving. The pilot, who made headlines around the world with the amazing Tunnel Pass in Turkey last year, set course to Puglia in southern Italy and Polignano a Mare, host of the penultimate stop of the 2022 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series this weekend.
Early risers in the beautiful Adriatic town were treated to an array of gravity-defying feats of jaw-dropping skill, daring and precision as world-class cliff divers Alessandro De Rose, Aidan Heslop, Catalin Preda and Artem Silchenko performed their acrobatic dives into the sea in coordination with a display by the Italian stunt pilot.
The precisely orchestrated operation began with Costa steering his Zivko Edge 540 race plane along the rocky coastline at 350kph. At the same time, the first high diver stepped onto the 27m platform mounted on a private rooftop terrace to listen for the approach of the plane flying a few centimetres above the water.
The moment the high diver could hear the plane below, he stretched his arms out wide like an airplane and jumped from the platform, executing a precise dive as he accelerated to 85kph. At the same time, Costa pulled up sharply to soar up vertically past the diving platform. The diver was only in the air for three seconds, requiring split-second timing, and a leap of faith to pull off the coordinated performance.
Home favourite Alessandro De Rose prepares to perform the Volare Duet ahead of Red Bull Cliff Diving in Italy.
Ready for takeoff: Alessandro De Rose
“It was really special! It’s an honour to be part of this project because it's the first time we do something like that. We’ve combined two sports that are completely different and yet really similar because they are both mentally challenging. It’s a unique project,” said local hero De Rose. “When I stood up there for the first jump, I was a little bit afraid, because I didn't know what to expect. But on the second one, I really enjoyed the flight, the dive and the view.”
Demanding exceptional aerial awareness, blistering top speeds and mental mastery to combine two spectacular sports, The Volare Duet even has a musical theme. It takes its name from the world-famous refrain ‘Volare’ from the song Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, whose composer Domenico Modugno is Polignano a Mare's most famous son.
“You rarely get to have high dives for breakfast. But this morning, that's what we had. It's been mind-blowing having Dario as one of the sharpest out there to just fly by our side and really collaborate to get something so unique out here in Polignano, which is as well a unique place and always good to come back to,” explained Preda, the Romanian star who’s leading the Cliff Diving World Series.
"The timing and coordination between all parties involved was the biggest challenge. In terms of the potentially disturbing elements that the plane and the whole dynamic of the project was bringing to the table, all of us involved managed to put those to one side and really focus on what we needed to do to get the best outcome possible.”
Dario Costa flies by as Aidan Heslop makes his dive in the Volare Duet - the first ever synchronised aerobatic flight and cliff dive.
Dario Costa flies by as Aidan Heslop makes his dive in the Volare Duet
This was a magic project in a magic location and such an incredible honour to be sharing it with such an amazing group of elite divers
With only milliseconds to capture both athletes in the same frame, precision and communication were essential to the success of the project, so it took a team of professionals to coordinate pilots, divers, cameramen, photographers and security on land and in the water to pull off this world-class aerobatic display.
Hanging out: Race and stunt pilot Dario Costa in the flight hangar ahead of the Volare Duet.
Hanging out: Dario Costa in the flight hangar ahead of the Volare Duet
“This was a magic project in a magic location and such an incredible honour to be sharing it with such an amazing group of elite divers and people working hard behind the scenes who helped to put this into reality and last, but not least, the biggest thank you to Polignano,” said Costa. “From a flying point of view the challenges were multiple but on top of them we had to please the photographers by being perfectly in synch, and this was something never done with an airplane and a diver. We had to do everything from scratch and this was the biggest question mark of this project. I really hope we managed to honour the memory of Maestro Domenico Modugno.”
Following the successful synchronising of two different disciplines, the world elite of cliff diving continues the flying spectacle during the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series competition this weekend – 24 women and men, including the current leaders Rhiannan Iffland from Australia and Romanian Preda, will display their diving skills in the sport’s European home in an attempt to impress the fans and collect crucial championships points.

Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Standings (after 6 of 8 stops) – WOMEN

  1. Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 1160pts
  2. Molly Carlson CAN – 950
  3. Eleanor Smart USA – 614
  4. Jessica Macaulay CAN – 614
  5. Xantheia Pennisi AUS – 596

Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Standings (after 6 of 8 stops) – MEN

  1. Catalin Preda ROU – 870pts.
  2. Aidan Heslop GBR – 846
  3. Gary Hunt FRA – 840
  4. Constantin Popovici ROU – 609
  5. Nikita Fedotov (W) IAT – 512

Watch Red Bull Cliff Diving LIVE

The penultimate round of Red Bull Cliff Diving 2022 will be LIVE on September 18 from 12:00 GMT.