SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. skydiver came back to earth in spectacular fashion Saturday night — netting a world’s first in the process.
Luke Aikins plummeted from 25,000 feet above the desert landscape of California’s Simi Valley without a parachute, landing squarely in a 100 feet x 100 feet, two-tiered net set up to catch him. He nailed the landing at 120 mph — terminal velocity.
Moments before he reached the safety net he did a last-second roll onto his back to land in the right position. Upon landing he remained motionless for a short while, before the net was lowered, and he stood up to embrace his wife.
Aikins, a self-described “member of the Red Bull Air Force, professional skydiver, BASE jumper, stuntman, pilot … (and) aviation expert,” did the astonishing stunt, billed “Heaven Sent,” live on TV while his family and supporters watched from the landing site.
“I’m here to show you that if we approach it the right way and we test it and we prove that it’s good to go, we can do things that we don’t think are possible,” he told CNN affiliate Q13 Fox.
The 42-year-old, who has a 4-year-old son, is a seasoned skydiver, with over 18,000 jumps to his name, as well as Hollywood stunt credits — including Marvel hit “Iron Man 3.” He worked with Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian skydiver who set the record for the highest jump in 2012, falling 128,000 feet from the edge of space.
Supporters took to his social media accounts to congratulate him, with one calling the stunt the “craziest and most inspiring thing” he had ever seen.
He prepared for the stunt by doing dozens of jumps — each, naturally, wearing a parachute — aiming at a 100 square foot target, opening his chute at the last possible moment.
In his practice jumps he would pull the cord at 1,000 feet, something he had to get special dispensation for. He said in the runup to the jump that he had consistently been hitting a much smaller target, giving him greater leeway with the full-sized net.
The hardest part of the jump is staying on target, he said. “The wind changes all the time at different altitudes,” he said.
“Whenever people attempt to push the limits of what’s considered humanly possible, they’re invariably described as crazy,” said Aikins. “But to me, this jump is simply the next logical step in a lifetime of extreme challenges.”
Back on earth he was greeted with a hug from his wife. Shortly after the successful freefall he posted images on Facebook, writing: “My vision was always proper preparation and that if you train right you can make anything happen.”