A 42-year-old skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps made history when he became the first person to leap without a parachute and land in a net instead. After a two-minute freefall, Luke Aikins landed dead center in the 100-by-100-foot net Saturday at the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley. As cheers erupted, Aikins quickly climbed out, walked over and hugged his wife, Monica, who had been watching from the ground with their 4-year-old son, Logan, and other family. "I'm almost levitating, it's incredible," the jubilant skydiver said. "This thing just happened! I can't even get the words out of my mouth," he added as he thanked the dozens of crew members who spent two years helping him prepare, including those who assembled the fishing trawler-like net and made sure it really worked.
The stunt, broadcast live on Fox, nearly didn't come off as planned when the Screen Actors Guild ordered him to wear a parachute. Aikins said he considered pulling out because having the parachute canister on his back would make his landing far more dangerous. If he had to wear it he said he wouldn't bother to pull the ripcord anyway. "I'm going all the way to the net, no question about it," he said from the plane. "I'll just have to deal with the consequences when I land of wearing the parachute on my back and what it's going to do to my body." A few minutes before the jump one of the show's hosts said the requirement had been lifted. When his friend Chris Talley came up with the idea two years ago, Aikins turned it down cold. "I kind of laugh and I say, 'OK, that's great. I'll help you find somebody to do it,'" he told the AP as he trained last week. Aikins was the backup in 2012 when Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound during a jump from 24 miles above Earth.