A 42-year-old skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps made history Saturday 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 at the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley.
He jumped with three other skydivers, each 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 got to an altitude where it was no longer needed.
An example was Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade (1922–1987) was a rear gunner in Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster heavy bombers during World War II, who survived—without a parachute—a fall of 18,000 feet (5,500 m) when abandoning his out-of-control, burning aircraft over Germany.
Alkemade jumped from the burning aircraft without a parachute, preferring to die by impact rather than burn to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5,500 m) to the ground below.
His fall was broken by pine trees and a soft snow cover on the ground. He was able to move his arms and legs and suffered only a sprained leg. The Lancaster crashed in flames, killing pilot Jack Newman and three other members of the crew. They are buried in the CWGC’s Hanover War Cemetery.
There are about 16 (now 17) recorded incidents of individuals who had survived falls from parachutes not opening.