Folks living in the Simi Valley region of California, don’t panic: if you witnessed something strange falling back to Earth on Saturday evening, it wasn’t a meteorite, a falling piece of space junk or a spacecraft of extraterrestrial origin – it was skydiver Luke Aikins making history.
Aikins, a 42-year-old with more than 18,000 jumps to his name already, jumped from an altitude of 25,000 feet en route to becoming the first person ever to skydive and land without using a parachute or wingsuit, according to the Washington Post and the New York Daily News.
Instead, Aikins leapt from a platform in the desert wearing an oxygen mask, which he removed about 7,000 feet into his freefall, and used GPH and lights to land on a target emblazoned onto a 100-foot by 100-foot net suspended 200 feet above the ground – all on national TV, as the entire stunt was broadcast live on Fox.
“I’m almost levitating, it’s incredible,” he told the Associated Press after landing. “This thing just happened! I can’t even get the words out of my mouth.” He then thanked the crew members who helped him prepare for the jump, which was two years in the making, and later posted a message to his Facebook page expressing gratitude for the support he received.
Stunt had been meticulously planned
While other divers have made jumps without chutes, the Washington Post pointed out that they either were assisted by a partner who had a parachute, put one on after leaping from the plane, or used a wingsuit to help control their decent. Aikins had none of those support systems.
For that reason, the dive almost never happened, as reports indicate that the Screen Actors Guild almost forbade Aikins from making the jump without a parachute. He almost called off the jump at that point, claiming that wearing a chute would have actually made the jump more dangerous, but the Guild ultimately relented and the dive went on as originally scheduled.
Three other skydivers made the jump as well, but each of them were wearing parachutes. One of them recorded the jump using a camera, while another left a smoke trail so that the people on the ground could following his descent and the third carried the oxygen canister used by Aikins. The trio then opened their chutes at a target altitude and left him to complete the free-fall on his own.
The lights being used to guide Aikins were strong enough to be visible at 25,000 feet, and would change color if he was off course, allowing him to attempt to make adjustments, according to the Post. After successfully landing, Aikins climbed out of the net, walked over to his wife, Monica, and four-year-old son, Logan, were watching, and gave both of them a big hug.
Image credit: Luke Aikins