What does it take to survive a 25,000-foot free fall? As stuntman and professional skydiver Luke Aikins proved Saturday, it takes some superhero courage and a well-placed net.
The 42-year-old daredevil, who has also handled stunts for such films as "Iron Man 3" and "Godzilla," completed the two-minute free fall last night above the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley in California. Wearing nothing but the clothes on this back, he jumped with a team of three other skydivers and plunged towards a 100-by-100-foot net.
Just moments before hitting the net, the daredevil flipped onto his back and hit the target at 120 mph. The crowd went crazy after Aikins started moving seconds later and stood up with no apparent injuries.
“I’m almost levitating, it’s incredible,” Aikins said as he hugged his wife and 4-year-old son. “This thing just happened! I can’t even get the words out of my mouth.”
The stunt, broadcast live on the Fox network under the title "Heaven Sent," was two years in the making. Aikins prepared by performing dozens of skydives towards the net, each time pulling a parachute 1,000 feet above the target. The practice jumps were crucial to negotiate the brutal winds that could push him off-course from the postage-stamp target.
All of this was built on the back of decades of experience. Not only does Aikins have more than 18,000 jumps to his credit, but he's also a safety and training advisor for the United States Parachute Association (USPA), providing advanced skydiving training to elite military special forces.
"Whenever people attempt to push the limits of what's considered humanly possible, they're invariably described as crazy," Aikins told CNN. "But to me, this jump is simply the next logical step in a lifetime of extreme challenges."