Skydiver Luke Aikins has become the first person to jump from a plane into a net on the ground without the benefit of a parachute.
Aikins hit the 100-by-100-foot net perfectly, quickly climbed out of it and walked over to hug his wife, who had been watching with other family members.
Just before climbing into a plane to make the jump, Aikins said he had been ordered to wear a parachute but indicated he wouldn’t open it.
As the plane was climbing to 25,000 feet above the drop zone he said the requirement had been lifted and he took off the chute.
He fell for about two minutes, then flipped onto his back at the last second and landed perfectly to cheers from those gathered to watch.
The effort was broadcast live on Fox at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday as part of an hour-long program called “Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent.” It was shown on a tape delay, however, and contained a warning to viewers not to try this themselves.
Aikins, who has done stunts for “Ironman 3” and taught advanced skydiving tactics to soldiers, acknowledges that what he did may sound stupid to many.
“If I wasn’t nervous, I would be stupid,” the compact, muscular athlete said with a grin as he sat near his landing spot earlier this week following a day of practice jumps — all made with a parachute.
For the real deal he jumped out with three other skydivers, one carrying a camera, another trailing smoke so people on the ground could follow his descent, the third ready to collect the oxygen tank needed for the first 10,000 feet of the fall.
The other three opened their chutes at 5,000 feet, leaving Aikins alone with no one to hand him a chute in midair as he has been done before.
When his friend Chris Talley came up with the idea two years ago, Aikins acknowledges he turned it down cold.
“I kind of laugh and I say, ‘Ok, that’s great. I’ll help you find somebody to do it. But it’s not for me. I’ve got a wife and son, and it’s really not for me.’”
A couple of weeks later he changed his mind.
The 42-year-old daredevil made his first tandem jump when he was 12, following with his first solo leap four years later. He’s been racking them up at several hundred a year ever since.
His father and grandfather were skydivers, and his wife, Monica, has made 2,000 jumps. His family owns Skydive Kapowsin near Tacoma, Washington.