You’ve heard of the basketball phrase “Live by the three, die by the three.” Well, how about “Live by the parachute, die by the parachute”?
Or you can be Luke Aikins, just jump without one and survive.
That’s exactly what the 42-year-old professional skydiver did Saturday in California, jumping 25,000 feet without a parachute. Needless to say, Aikins, who has more than 18,000 jumps on his resume, has become quite the celebrity.
“It’s unbelievable right now,” Aikins said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “All the messages and stuff I’m getting, I had no idea the world was going to look at it this big. For me, it was big, but I didn’t think it’d be this big for everybody.”
Aikins jumped out of his first plane when he was 12 and has been hooked ever since.
“You can’t describe the rolling out of the airplane, but after that, it feels like you’re flying,” he said. “I was 12 years old and I was strapped up and we’re flying along. I didn’t get to jump by myself until I was 16. By yourself is indescribable. There’s nobody to count on except for you.”
Aikins banked on himself Saturday and survived, his free fall lasting roughly two minutes and 10 seconds.
“Normally you pull your chute at about two minutes,” he said. “Two minutes will put you right down there at about 1,500 feet, 1,000 feet above the ground. You’re moving pretty good. A normal opening altitude is about 2,500 feet. For training for this, I was opening around 1,000 feet, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time in order to get that dialed in. But my practice jumps got me to where I was within three seconds or so of when I would actually hit the net. So we had that tested out pretty good.”
Believe it or not, Aikins did a few flips at the outset of his jump. On purpose.
“When I (got) out (of the plane), I had a plan,” he said. “When I jumped out, I did a flip, kind of goofed off (and gave) a little smile to my buddies. Because you really have quite awhile. You got two minutes. You know you’re in the area of where you need to be. But I needed to set my mind right because you’re so tensed up. So I did a couple flips, then I came over and my buddy and I did a little high-five. It kind of sets you in the mood of, ‘Okay, now you need to start focusing.’”
So he did. Aikins removed his oxygen system about halfway through his jump.
Then it got real.
“I look around, I take one last look at my buddies, and now it’s time to really go to work and start focusing,” he said. “There’s some guidance lights that help me line up. Now this was my 83rd jump in a row of being exactly inside the middle of that 100-by-100 foot yet. I had done 82 in a row of perfect ones. This one ended up being the least perfect of all my practice jumps. Believe it or not, I was surprised. I thought it was going to be routine, but the adrenaline was pumping, and I was overcorrecting a little bit. I knew I was going to land in the net, but we had never done this roll to my back. I’m watching where I’m going and (I have to flip). You flip over and you go blind right before you hit (the net). Totally unnatural. I flip to my back. You don’t want to be head-low because then you can land on your neck going 120 miles an hour. So I’m on my back, I grunt as loud as I can and I tighten up. I get ready for that impact, and it was remarkably soft.”
The net was 150 feet in the air. Aikins stopped about 20 or 30 feet above the ground.
“From rolling to my back to being at a full stop was (roughly) three-and-a-half seconds,” he said. “When I rolled to my back, I knew I was in. One hundred percent in. It was over so fast. My body was tingling. It was adrenaline. It was unreal.”
Although Aikins didn’t land as perfectly as he had hoped, he doesn’t plan on trying the stunt again.
“I would love to hit that thing in the center,” he said, “but I think that’s it for me jumping without a parachute.”