For some people, jumping out of an aircraft at tens of thousands of feet with a parachute is a big no, no, much less leaping off without one. But that was exactly what skydiver Luke Aikins did. Oh wait, in fact, we should be calling Luke a ‘daredevil’ instead because he accomplished the unimaginable: he leaped off a single prop light aircraft without a parachute at an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 m), plummeted at speeds of hundreds of miles an hour and survive to tell the tale. A jump team of three accompanied Luke down to around 4000+ feet (around 1,200 m) before pulling their chutes and leaving Luke on his own. From that point, Luke made his way down to California desert where two layers of safety net measuring 10,000 square-feet awaits.
While a 10,000-square-foot net may be big, but for a person coming from thousands of feet above, it would be a stamp-size target and any miscalculation could end up in tragedy. However, Luke ain’t just anybody. Coming from generations of skydivers, Luke has been leaping off planes and gliding down to earth since he was 16, racking up no less than 18,000 parachute jumps. His rich experience also lands him in a job as a safety and training advisor for the United States Parachute Association (USPA) where he imparts advanced skydiving techniques to elite military special forces – with chutes on, of course. Unlike a person who fall out of the sky accidentally, Luke adopts a controlled free falling position which he used to guide him towards the target and as he was near the net, he made a quick flip and landed on the safety net on his back.
It was a feat not for the faint of heart and a feat that, for a few minutes, had his family, including wife Monica, a 4-year-old son, his dad and brothers and sister, grasping and clenching their fists as Luke plunges to earth. But he has done it and that’s a world record for sure. However, technically, Luke is still not the world record holder for falling from the sky without a chute. That record was set in an unfortunate circumstance, though, in air disaster and it is held till today by Yugoslavian air hostess Vesna Vulovic who plummeted to earth from a staggering 33,333 feet (10,160 m) when the DC-9 commercial jetliner she was on blew up. Miraculously, she survived after 27 days in coma and suffering from multiple broken bones.
But I guess, that’s a slightly different record we are talking about. One thing for sure, Luke’s feat is not going into Guinness World Records, because Ms. Vulovic’s record is still hoarding the space. It was an incredible, if not insane, feat nonetheless and Luke Aikins has all our respect. But please don’t do that again. You can watch the entire proceeding below.
Source and images via NPR.