Skydiver Luke Aikins has already made 18,000 parachute jumps, but the one he’s about to make has a big difference – it’s without a parachute.
The 42-year-old daredevil has announced he will leap from a plane over Simi Valley in Southern California this weekend and land in a 20-storey high net, two minutes and 25,000 feet later. The entire heart-stopping feat will be broadcast live on television.
Mr Aikins completed his first parachute jump at the age of 12, since when he has helped to train celebrated skydivers such as “Birdman” Felix Baumgartner and done stunts for films including Iron Man 3 and Godzilla. He lives with his wife and young son near Tacoma in Washington, where his family still runs the skydiving school set up by his grandfather.
In the past, skydivers have leapt from planes without a parachute and had one handed to them in mid-air by fellow jumpers. But Mr Aikins would be the first person ever to make it as far as the ground without one.
“If I wasn’t nervous I would be stupid,” he told the Associated Press this week – though some might suggest he were stupid for doing it at all. “We’re talking about jumping without a parachute, and I take that very seriously. It’s not a joke,” he went on.
The net, measuring 100ftx100ft, is sufficient to break his fall without bouncing him back out of it. Over six months of training and preparation, it has been tested multiple times using dummies, though not always successfully: one of them smashed right through
The jump was the brainchild of two Hollywood PR men, partners Jimmy Smith and Bobby Ware, who came up with idea two years ago and took it to Mr Aikins, who initially demurred.
The televised stunt recalls Mr Baumgartner’s record-breaking 2012 Red Bull Stratos dive from the edge of space. Mr Aikins was part of the team that prepared Mr Baumgartner for his 25-mile jump.
The parachute-less leap will be filmed by a crew of skydiving cameramen who plan to deploy their parachutes partway down. Mr Aikins will have a television camera fitted to his helmet, as well as a Samsung 360 camera designed to capture the dive as a virtual reality experience.
The event will be broadcast with a tape delay on the Fox Network as part of an hour-long special, Heaven Sent, beginning at 5pm local time on Saturday.