He's a Skydiver Working With a Net, But No Parachute - NBC New York
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

He's a Skydiver Working With a Net, But No Parachute

"If I wasn't nervous I would be stupid," Luke Aikins says

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    A veteran skydiver will jump without a parachute over the SoCal desert in a televised stunt. (Video footage courtesy Hunter Public Relations) (Published Thursday, July 14, 2016)

    He's made 18,000 parachute jumps, helped train some of the world's most elite skydivers, done some of the stunts for "Ironman 3." But the plunge Luke Aikins knows he'll be remembered for is the one he's making without a parachute. Or a wingsuit.

    Or anything, really, other than the clothes he'll be wearing when he jumps out of an airplane at 25,000 feet this weekend, attempting to become the first person to land safely on the ground in a net.

    The Fox network will broadcast the two-minute jump live at 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT) Saturday as part of an hour-long TV special called "Heaven Sent."

    And, no, you don't have to tell Aikins it sounds crazy. He knows that.

    3 Dead in Maryland Shooting; Manhunt for Gunman Underway

    [NATL] 3 Dead in Maryland Shooting; Manhunt for Gunman Underway

    Authorities are searching for Radee Labeeb Prince, 37, who is on the run after he was suspected of shooting five employees of Advanced Granite Solutions at the Emmorton Business Park in Edgewood, Maryland. 

    (Published Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017)

    He said as much to his wife after a couple Hollywood guys looking to create the all-time-greatest reality TV stunt floated the idea by him a couple years ago.

    "I said, 'You won't believe these guys,'" the affable skydiver recalls with a robust laugh. "'They want me to jump out without a parachute.' She said, 'Oh, with a wingsuit.' I said, 'No, they want me to do it with nothing.' We both had a good laugh about that."

    But in the weeks that followed he couldn't shake one persistent thought: Could anybody actually do this and live to tell the tale?

    Because if anyone could, Aikins wanted to be that guy.

    After all, the 42-year-old daredevil has practically lived his life in the sky. He 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 about 800 a year ever since.

    He took his wife, Monica, on her first jump when they were dating and she's up to 2,000 now. The couple lives with a 4-year-old son, Logan, in Washington, where Aikins' family owns Skydive Kapowsin near Tacoma.

    US Gold Medalist Goes Public With Account of Sexual Abuse

    [NATL] US Gold Medalist Goes Public With Account of Sexual Abuse

    McKayla Maroney, a gold medalist and former Olympic gymnast, went public with her account of sexual assault by former US Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar on Twitter. Maroney revealed she was assaulted for years by Nassar, beginning when she was 13 years old.

    (Published Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017)

    Over the years Aikins has taught skydiving, taught others to teach skydiving, even participated in world-record stacking events, those exercises where skydivers line up atop one another as they fly their open chutes across the sky.

    He tells of having his chute tangle with others on a couple of those efforts and having to come down under his reserve parachute. In all, he's used his reserve 30 times, not a bad number for 18,000 jumps.

    This time, though, he won't have any parachute.

    "If I wasn't nervous I would be stupid," the compact, muscular athlete says with a grin as he sits under a canopy near Saturday's drop zone.

    "We're talking about jumping without a parachute, and I take that very seriously. It's not a joke," he adds.

    Nearby, a pair of huge cranes defines the boundaries where the net in which Aikins expects to land is being erected. It will be about one-third the size of a football field and 20 stories high, providing enough space to cushion his fall, he says, without allowing him to bounce out of it. The landing target, which has been described as similar to a fishing trawler net, has been tested repeatedly using dummies.

    One of those 200-pound (91-kilogram) dummies didn't bounce out. It crashed right through.

    "That was not a good thing to see," recalled Jimmy Smith, the veteran Hollywood public relations man who, with his partner Bobby Ware, came up with the idea of having someone skydive without a parachute.

    Chris Talley, who had worked with Aikins on other projects and helped train him for this one, recommended the skydiver to the two Amusement Park Entertainment executives. He told them Aikins was arguably the only guy not only good enough but also smart enough and careful enough to survive this.

    Smith recalled how the three men gazed at each other with a look of foreboding after that dummy crashed through the net. Then they looked over at Aikins.

    "Luke just said, 'No biggie, that's why we test.'"

    Fox has had little to say about the stunt other than it will be broadcast on a tape delay, as is the case with all its live broadcasts, says network spokesman Les Eisner. It contains a warning not to try this at home.

    Drivers Arrested After Crash and Brawl on Racetrack

    [NATL] Drivers Arrested After Crash and Brawl on Racetrack

    Spectators at the Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana, got more than the race they bargained for when a crash led to a fist fight and eventual arrest of two racecar drivers on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017)

    That would seemingly be difficult, as Smith and Ware had to scour a good part of the world, from Arizona Indian land to Dubai real estate, before they found what everyone agreed was the best place for Aikins to land.

    He'll come down in a dry, dusty, desolate-looking section of an old movie ranch north of Los Angeles where not that long ago Shia LaBeouf was battling "Transformers."

    The drop zone, surrounded by rolling hills, presents some challenges, Aikins said, noting he'll be constantly fighting shifting winds as he falls 120 mph (193 kph).

    Other skydivers have jumped from planes without parachutes and had someone hand them one in midair. But Aikins won't even have that.

    Why?

    "To me, I'm proving that we can do stuff that we don't think we can do if we approach it the right way," he answers.

    Fighters Surrender as Syrian Forces Clear Out ISIS Base

    [NATL] Fighters Surrender as Syrian Forces Clear Out ISIS Stronghold

    Islamic State fighters surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic forces after the last remaining strongholds were freed from the extremist group's grasp Tuesday, restoring the city of Raqqa to the SDF.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017)

    "I've got 18,000 jumps with a parachute, so why not wear one this time?" he muses almost to himself. "But I'm trying to show that it can be done."