A man jumped from an airplane at 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) without a parachute on Saturday – and lived to tell the tale.
No, Luke Aikins hadn’t inadvertently forgotten to put on his parachute prior to exiting the aircraft. This was a deliberate act.
After leaping from a plane above the southern California desert, the 42-year-old skydiving stuntman had a full two minutes to regret taking on the challenge, but considering it was being broadcast live on TV – oh, and his life was at stake, too – there really was no time for second thoughts. Or any way out, for that matter.
A 100×100-foot (30×30 meters) net had been set up to catch Aikins, one that must have looked about the size of a microchip when he began his dive. Using only air currents to control his descent, and a GPS device to confirm where the hell he was, the stuntman hurtled toward the ground at terminal velocity. That’s 122 mph/54 meters per second. Otherwise known as fast.
A split second before hitting the net, Texas-born Aikins performed a lightning-quick body turn to ensure the best possible landing position.
For what must have felt like an eternity to those watching the stunt live, Aikins remained motionless in the net as it was slowly lowered to the ground. But he was fine, able to stand and raise his arms aloft as the nearby crowd cheered. First to greet Aikins was wife Monica, mightily relieved he was still in one piece as opposed to a cartoon-like splat deep in the desert floor.
Best not to try this at home
As you’d expect, Aikins is an extremely experienced skydiver, having notched up more than 18,000 jumps – all with parachutes – over an exhilarating 26-year career. He’s performed stunts for Hollywood movies too, including Iron Man 3.
According to CNN, preparation for the extraordinary challenge included countless parachute-equipped jumps aimed at a much smaller target to improve his skill, though for those he always pulled the cord about 1,000 feet up. A lighting system that changes color according to your position, similar to those used at airports, was used to help guide Aikins toward the net, while a GPS device on his helmet beeped intermittently to offer accurate altitude information.
“Whenever people attempt to push the limits of what’s considered humanly possible, they’re invariably described as crazy,” Aikins said before the jump. “But to me, this jump is simply the next logical step in a lifetime of extreme challenges.”
Following his achievement, he wrote on Facebook, “My vision was always proper preparation and that if you train right you can make anything happen.”
We don’t know what Aikins has planned for the future, but the purchase of a pipe and rocking chair is certain to be a ways off.