There’s some crazy people out there. I mean that in the best possible way – so I guess ballsy might be a better word than crazy? I just don’t think I could ever see myself doing what Luke Aikins did last night. Then again, even Aikins (an experienced skydiver with over 18,000 jumps to his name) had little interest in it at first.
“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?”
I’ll hand it to the guy – he sure seems committed to finding a way to perform this potentially deadly stunt. Far more committed than I would be – mind you, the idea of jumping out of a plane in general is pretty unappealing to me – I like to have solid ground (or at least a floor) underneath me whenever possible. It’s not like I don’t get at least one aspect of the appeal, though. It’s that adrenaline rush, man.
A few years ago, I was living in Peterborough but working in Lindsay. I would drive most days up Highway 7 to get there, and most drives were pretty uneventful. One particular morning I got stuck behind someone who was going a little slower than I would have liked – but we were still hovering right around the speed limit so for a little while I just followed. Eventually I decided I was in a bit more of a rush and pulled out to pass – and realized probably about halfway through piloting my gutless Saturn past this car that I probably shouldn’t have picked right then to do it. Foot the floor with another car coming directly at me. The feeling in that moment was so surreal – almost like it was a dream and if I crashed I would just wake up, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I managed to get ahead of the car and back into my own lane with what felt like split seconds to spare (it was probably a little more) and then immediately launched into the most incredible adrenaline rush I’ve ever felt. I let out a “WHOO!” and I think I might have punched the ceiling of my car, and in that moment I was ready to jump out of a plane just to keep that feeling going. That desire eventually faded, but I can at least say that I understand why people do it.
But still – when most people jump out of an airplane, they generally have parachutes. That’s the one piece of vital equipment Luke Aikins didn’t have when he jumped out of a plane over California last night.
Other parachute-free dives have happened in the past, but they generally involve the chuteless skydiver being grabbed by another with a parachute, or putting on a parachute AFTER jumping out of the plane. In this case, the only thing to catch Aikins was the 100×100 foot net suspended 200 feet above the ground. While it looked huge from the ground, but was more or less invisible from 25,000 feet up – so Aikins and his crew came up with a system of lights that are powerful enough to be seen from the ground and change colour based on how on- or off-target he is. So he knew exactly where he was going when he jumped out of that plane. I would click that link just above in this paragraph if you’re looking for a little more background.
Naturally when a stunt like this is attempted, there’s going to be some live TV coverage. When the big moment came, here’s what viewers saw:
As you can see, he’s fine. We know that, because the “comprehensive medical exam” seemed to consist of a high-five.
Obviously it’s a completely different stunt, but the live coverage aspect of it reminded me a lot of being a kid and watching Robbie Knievel jump the grand canyon on a motorcycle on live television – wondering if I was about to witness the death of a stunt man.
An epic jump followed by an epic crash, but he made it… And I can say I watched that happen LIVE!
Although when I think of stunt shows, I also can’t help but think of Dennis Rodman’s stuntman fail… For those of you who haven’t seen it:
I’m glad last night went a little smoother than that…