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Sunday 22 July 2018

Skydiver makes final preparations to jump without parachute

Skydiver Luke Aikins jumps from a helicopter during his training in Simi Valley, California (AP)
Skydiver Luke Aikins jumps from a helicopter during his training in Simi Valley, California (AP)

Skydiver Luke Aikins is gearing up to step out of a plane at 25,000 feet - but this time he will not be taking his parachute with him.

If all goes according to plan, he will land two minutes later in a trawler-like fishing net 20 stories above the ground and only about a third the size of a football field.

If he can pull it off, he will put his name in the history books as the only skydiver to go from plane to planet Earth without a parachute.

The effort will be broadcast live on Fox at 8pm EDT on Saturday (midnight GMT) as part of an hour-long programme called Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent. It will be shown on a tape delay, however, and will contain a warning to viewers not to try this themselves.

Aikins, who has done stunts for Ironman 3 and taught advanced skydiving tactics to soldiers, acknowledges that what he is about to do may sound stupid to many.

"If I wasn't nervous, I would be stupid," he said with a grin as he sat near his landing spot earlier this week following a day of practice jumps - all made with a parachute.

For the real deal he will jump out with three other skydivers, one carrying a camera, another trailing smoke so people on the ground can follow his descent, the third ready to collect the oxygen tank he will need for the first 10,000 feet of the fall.

The other three will then open their chutes at 5,000 feet, leaving Aikins alone with no one to hand him a chute in midair as has been done before.

When his friend Chris Talley came up with the idea two years ago, Aikins acknowledges he turned it down cold.

"I kind of laugh and I say, 'OK, that's great. I'll help you find somebody to do it. But it's not for me. I've got a wife and son, and it's really not for me'."

A couple of weeks later he changed his mind.

Talley said Aikins is the only skydiver he is confident can actually pull this off.

The 42-year-old daredevil made his first tandem jump when he was 12, following with his first solo leap four years later. He has been racking them up at several hundred a year ever since.

His father and grandfather were skydivers, and his wife, Monica, has made 2,000 jumps. His family owns Skydive Kapowsin near Tacoma, Washington.

His father, two brothers, his sister, his wife and their four-year-old son all plan to watch him jump on Saturday at an old movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley. His mother will not be there.

"My mum supports me. She doesn't support this project," he said with a sheepish smile.

He added: "To me, I'm proving that we can do stuff that we don't think we can do if we approach it the right way," he said.

Press Association

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