Daredevil skydiver jumps without parachute into net; mum can’t watch

Daredevil skydiver jumps without parachute into net; mum can’t watch
Jubilation after the stunt

A 42-year-old skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps has made history by becoming the first person to leap without a parachute and land in a net instead.

After a two-minute freefall from 7,620 metres (25,000ft), Luke Aikins landed dead centre in the 100 x100ft net at the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley, California.

Luke Atkins hits the net. Pictures: Mondelez International via AP
Luke Atkins hits the net. Pictures: Mondelez International via AP

As cheers erupted, Mr Aikins quickly climbed out, walked over and hugged his wife Monica, who had been watching from the ground with their four-year-old son Logan and other family members.

"I'm almost levitating, it's incredible," the jubilant skydiver said, raising his hands over his head as his wife held Logan, who dozed in her arms.

"This thing just happened! I can't even get the words out of my mouth," he added as he thanked the dozens of crew members who spent two years helping him prepare for the jump, including those who assembled the fishing trawler-like net and made sure it really worked.

But the stunt, broadcast live on the Fox network for the TV special Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent, nearly did not come off as planned when Mr Aikins revealed just before climbing into his plane that the Screen Actors Guild had ordered him to wear a parachute to ensure his safety.

He said he considered pulling out at that point because having the parachute canister on his back would make his landing in the net far more dangerous. If he had to wear it he said he would not bother to pull the ripcord anyway.

"I'm going all the way to the net, no question about it," he said from the plane. "I'll just have to deal with the consequences when I land of wearing the parachute on my back and what it's going to do to my body."

A few minutes before the jump, one of the show's hosts said the requirement had been lifted. Mr Aikins left the plane without the chute.

Mid-jump...
Mid-jump...

He jumped with three other skydivers, each wearing parachutes. One had a camera, another trailed smoke so people on the ground could follow his descent and the third - Luke's cousin - took off an oxygen canister after they got to an altitude where it was no longer needed.

Then the others opened their parachutes and left him on his own.

Mum can’t watch

Mr Aikins admitted before the jump he was nervous and his mother said she was one family member who would not watch.

When his friend Chris Talley came up with the idea two years ago, Mr Aikins said he turned it down.

"I kind of laugh and I say, 'Ok, that's great. I'll help you find somebody to do it'," he said as he trained for the jump last week.

A couple of weeks after Mr Talley made his proposal Mr Aikins called back and said he would do it.

He had been the back-up jumper in 2012 when Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound during a jump from 24 miles above Earth.

Mr Aikins made his first tandem jump when he was 12, following with his first solo leap four years later. He has been racking them up at several hundred a year ever since.

His father and grandfather were skydivers and his wife has made 2,000 jumps. His family owns Skydive Kapowsin near Tacoma, Washington.

Mr Aikins is also a safety and training adviser for the United States Parachute Association and is certified to teach both students and skydiving instructors. His business Para Tactics provides skydiving training to US Navy Seals and other members of elite fighting forces.


More in this Section

India and China look to ease tensions in disputed Himalayan regionIndia and China look to ease tensions in disputed Himalayan region

Harder to learn about science with modern technology – Astronomer RoyalHarder to learn about science with modern technology – Astronomer Royal

US officers suspended as man, 75, cracks head after being pushed overUS officers suspended as man, 75, cracks head after being pushed over

Brexit trade talks remain deadlocked as Barnier accuses UK of backtrackingBrexit trade talks remain deadlocked as Barnier accuses UK of backtracking


Lifestyle

Throw all the veg you’ve got into this easy dish.Jack Monroe’s recalibration supper recipe

In a time when our shopping and cooking needs to be efficient and easy, we are bringing back our One List, Five Meals recipe pages.Michelle Darmody's One list, Five meals

What is the future of fashion and how will the ‘high street’ look when this is all over? Corina Gaffey asks those in the knowThe future of fashion: How the crisis will impact the retail industry and what we wear

Surveying the global market, Des O’Sullivan says when the going gets tough, the tough get goingHow art world is putting changed times in picture

More From The Irish Examiner