There's a good reason people don't throw themselves out of airplanes without parachutes or wingsuits, and that's because it rarely ends well. Skydiver Luke Aikins will be hoping that tomorrow is one of the rare occasions where that's not the case, as he jumps 'chute- and 'suit-less from 25,000 ft (7,620 m).
The stunt, which is going by the name of "Heaven Sent," is said to be a first-of-its-kind. It will be the pinnacle of a 26-year career for the 42-year-old Aikins and will set a world record for the highest jump without a parachute or wingsuit.
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"Everyone is calling this my 'coming-out jump', which is ironic considering I've been skydiving since the age of 16," says Aikins in a press release. "But nothing even comes remotely close to this. I expect Heaven Sent to change me, skydiving and the future of live spectacles forever."
There are few people better placed to attempt this stunt. Aikins is a third-generation skydiver whose grandfather co-founded a skydiving school after returning from World War II. He has over 18,000 jumps under his belt and has performed a variety of skydiving stunts. In addition, he serves as a safety and training advisor for the United States Parachute Association (USPA) instructing the instructors, provides advanced skydiving training to elite military special forces, and helped train Felix Baumgartner for his historic Stratos jump.
Aikins himself has a team of experts around him, including aerospace physiologist Chris Talley and performance psychologist Michael Gervais. Talley explains that training for the stunt has seen Aikins carrying out test jumps with a parachute in which he has been aiming for a target created using PVC pipes attached to the side of a cliff. As training has progressed, the pipes have been moved closer and closer together in order to hone Aikins' ability to "hit the sweet spot."
For all the preparation, it is clear that this will be the biggest challenge of Aikins' career. He must direct his body in freefall using only the air currents around him so as to land on a 1000-sq ft net in the Southern California desert. The goal throughout freefall will be to keep his body lined-up directly over the target.
"In the back of mind I know that there is that risk, there's that possibility that things could go wrong and that, you know, you could do something like this and you could not see your wife and son again," says Aikins. "Is something like this worth it? I would say that 90 percent of the world would say it's not. But I would say it's also part of who I am to be the first guy to do something like this. It would leave my personal mark on skydiving history."
Heaven Sent will be broadcast live, albeit it with a delay, Saturday, July 30 from 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on FOX in the US.
The video below provides an introduction to the stunt.