Skydiver jumps from 25,000ft with no parachute... and lands in a net just 100ft across
A 42-year-old skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps made history when he became the first person to survive a leap without a parachute.
After a two-minute freefall from 25,000ft, Luke Aikins flipped onto his back at the last second and landed dead centre into a net, a 100ft across, at the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley in California. There were cheers from those who had gathered to watch the stunt, including his family.
The jump makes Aikins the only skydiver ever to go from plane to Earth without a parachute.
As the cheers erupted, Aikins quickly climbed out of the net, walked over and hugged his wife, Monica, who had been watching from the ground along with their four-year-old son, Logan, and other family members.
"I'm almost levitating, it's incredible," the jubilant skydiver said, raising his hands over his head as his wife held their son, who dozed in her arms.
"This thing just happened! I can't even get the words out of my mouth," added Mr Aikins as he thanked the dozens of crew members who had spent two years helping him prepare for the jump, including those who assembled the fishing-trawler-like net and made sure that it really worked.
The stunt, broadcast live on the Fox network for the TV special 'Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent', nearly didn't come off as planned when Aikins revealed that the Screen Actors Guild had ordered him to wear a parachute in order to ensure his safety.
He considered pulling out at that point because having the parachute canister on his back would make his landing in the net far more dangerous.
If he had had to wear it, he said, he wouldn't bother to pull the ripcord anyway.
A few minutes before the jump, one of the show's hosts said the requirement had been lifted and Aikins did it without the chute. He jumped with three other skydivers, all wearing parachutes.
One had a camera, another trailed smoke so people on the ground could follow his descent and the third took an oxygen canister he handed off after they had got to an altitude where it was no longer needed. Then the others opened their parachutes and left him.
When his friend Chris Talley came up with the idea of the jump two years ago, Aikins turned it down cold. A couple of weeks later, he said he would do it.