On July 30 at approximately 5:45 p.m. local time, Hollywood stuntman and skydiving luminary Luke Aikins jumped out of a Cessna Grand Caravan airplane 25,000 feet above Simi Valley, California. It was the first time in his 18,000-plus skydives that Aikins, 42, with a wife and young son, did not wear a parachute. The “Stride Gum Presents: Heaven Sent” stunt, which 1.44 million viewers watched live on Fox, made history when Aikins landed safely in a large net suspended 200 feet above the ground by a quartet of cranes.
Aikins and a small army of producers planned the jump for two years. He was joined in freefall by a trio of support jumpers, including his cousin, fellow aerial wizard Andy Farrington; but they all had parachutes and deployed them as Aikins continued plummeting toward the ground. When Aikins landed successfully, he became the first skydiver to intentionally land a jump sans chute and survive (British wingsuit pilot Gary Connery famously landed in a pile of cardboard boxes in 2012 without a chute, after jumping from a helicopter 2,400 feet above the ground). Here, we recount his jump and how he managed a happy ending.
Photo: Aikins practiced for months leading up to the jump, honing every detail to ensure maximum safety through training leaps like this one, five days before his fateful freefall. Still, not everything went off without a problem. Twenty-five hours before his jump, the Screen Actors Guild threatened to require Aikins to wear a parachute for safety; but the Hollywood union lifted that clause shortly before the freefall began.