Luke Aikins remembers laughing the first time he was asked to jump out of a plane with nothing but the clothes on his back
Luke Aikins remembers laughing the first time he was asked to jump out of a plane with nothing but the clothes on his back.
“Like any normal, sane person I said, ‘Thank you but no thank you I have a wife and a son and I’ve got a life to live,’ ” Aikins, 42, tells PEOPLE.
“Then, two weeks went by and I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking, if somebody said you had to do this how could it be done?” he continues.
A third-generation skydiver with 18,000 jumps under his belt, Aikins is more than just a daredevil. He also serves as a safety and training advisor for the United States Parachute Association and worked as a safety consultant on Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking Stratos jump from the edge of space.
“I know there’s a stereotype of extreme sports crazy guys as having an ‘I don t care if I live or die’ attitude, but that’s not me,” he says.
So, Aikins spent weeks talking to engineers to find out if safely landing a jump like this would be physically possible. After getting the green light from a team of experts, and the blessing of his wife, who happens to be a skydiving instructor, Aikins was on board.
Not only will Aikins attempt what he first laughed off as insane, he’s going to do it live on television. On Saturday, Aikins will jump out of a plane at 25,000 feet with no parachute and no wingsuit to slow or control his descent back to earth.
Instead, he’s relying solely on wind currents and his own strength to negotiate his landing on a 100×100-foot net suspended 200 feet above the Southern California desert. The whole effort will be broadcast live Saturday on Fox as the one-hour special Stride Gum Presents: Heaven Sent (8 p.m. ET and PT).
While there have been other “parachute-free” skydives before, in each case, the person making the jump has either been grabbed in free fall by another skydiver with a parachute, or put their parachute on after exiting the plane. Unlike these jumpers, Aikins will have no one to catch him – just the net suspended over the ground.
Aikins explains that while the net may seem large to those on the ground, it will be nearly invisible from the height of his jump. So, he and his team designed a system of lights that are strong enough to be seen from 25,000 feet and change color depending on if he is on the right track to meet his target.
“I wont just be guessing when I jump out at 25,000 feet, I’ll know exactly where I need to go,” Aikins says.
Aikins will free fall for just 126 seconds – too brief and require too much focus for terror to set in – but the same can’t be said for the 20-minute plane ride leading up to it.
“I think about what it’s going to be like to take that ride without a parachute all the time,” he says. “That’s going to be a very weird and eerie feeling.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to be nervous in that plane,” he adds.
But, having made 34 out of 34 practice jumps in which a parachute is released at just 1,000 feet above ground perfectly on-target, Aikins is confident he’ll soon be hugging his wife and 4-year-old son Logan after setting his fourth world record.
And, although his stunt calls for a massive “do not try this at home” disclaimer, Aikins had one piece of advice for anyone who may accidentally find themselves in a situation much like the one he is willingly entering: “If you’re pushed out of a plane with no parachute, all I can say is try to find something soft.”