In his most insane stunt yet, professional skydiver Luke Aikins will jump out of an airplane flying at 25,000 feet without a parachute or wingsuit in an attempt to land on a special net designed to break his fall. No one has ever attempted anything like this. If he makes, it, Aikins will become a living legend, if he doesn’t…
Aikins, who has spent much of his life in the air and has over 18,000 parachute jumps under his belt, was approached about doing this extreme jump a couple of years ago by a couple of Hollywood guys looking to produce the all-time-greatest reality TV stunt. “You won’t believe these guys, they want me to jump out without a parachute,” he remembers telling his wife at the time. She said “Oh, with a wingsuit,” to which he replied “No, they want me to do it with nothing.” They had a good laugh about the preposterous proposition, but in the weeks that followed, Luke just could stop thinking about it. Could anybody actually perform such a stunt and live to tell the tale?
If anyone could, it would have to be Aikins. He made his first tandem jump when he was 12, followed by his first solo jump four years later. he’s never really stopped since, performing about 800 leaps a year. He has taught skydiving, performed all kinds of complex stunts and routines, but even when his parachute got tangled with that of another diver, he could always rely on his backup chute. That only happened about 30 times out of 18,000, but this time he would have no backup to turn to. “If I wasn’t nervous I would be stupid,” he says. “We’re talking about jumping without a parachute, and I take that very seriously. It’s not a joke.”
Photo: Andy Farrington/Facebook
After consulting with engineers to find out if a safe landing without any kind of parachute or wingsuit was actually possible, and getting a green light from his wife – who also happens to be a skydiving instructor – Aikins was on board. When he actually performs the death-defying jump this Saturday, Luke Aikins will have just one chance of making to ground in one piece – to somehow fight against shifting winds as he descends at speeds of up to 120 mph and hit a special net about one-third the size of a football field and 20 stories high. He will free fall for just 126 seconds, during which he will have to focus all his efforts on hitting the target. Needless to say, there’s no room for errors.
The landing target, which has been described as similar to a fishing trawler net, is designed to cushion his landing without allowing him to bounce off. So far it has been tested with dummies, but not all tests went as smoothly as Luke and his team would have hoped. One of those 200-pound came in with such speed that it simply crashed through the net. Jimmy Smith, a veteran Hollywood public relations man who, with his partner Bobby Ware, came up with the idea for this stunt remembers looking at Aikins when that happened only to hear him say “No biggie, that’s why we test.”
Photo: Heaven Sent
It might seem like he has a dead wish, but Aikins assures us that’s not the case. “I know there’s a stereotype of extreme sports crazy guys as having an ‘I don’t care if I live or die’ attitude, but that’s not me,” he says. “I wont just be guessing when I jump out at 25,000 feet, I’ll know exactly where I need to go.” To maximize his chances of getting it right when it counts, Luke has so far done 34 test jumps in which he released a parachute at just 1,000 feet above ground and landed in just the right spot every time. This gives him confidence that he’ll be hugging his wife and four year old son Logan after he sets his fourth world record, on Saturday.
To increase his chances, the special net set up on an old movie ranch north of Los Angeles will be equipped with lights that can be seen from 25,000 feet. While it may seem like a hard spot to miss from the ground, the net will look like a tiny dot from way up in the sky, so the lights will guide the skydiver towards it, changing color depending on if he is on the right track to land on it.
Photo: YouTube screengrab
Parachute-free jumps have been done before, but in all other cases the jumper was either grabbed in free fall by another skydiver with a parachute, or put a parachute during their descent. Aikins will be the first to jump and land without a parachute or wingsuit.
Luke Aikins’ historic jump will be broadcast on live TV by the Fox network as part of an hour-long TV special called “Heaven Sent.” So be sure to tune in at 8 pm. EDT (5 pm PDT).