Skydiving is, both literally and metaphorically, not a walk in the park. It is a rigorous adventure sport, which requires a lot of planning and preparation beforehand. In particular, safe precautions and procedures are highly emphasized since any malfunction can be fatal. As anyone would know, the single most important piece of equipment in skydiving is your parachute. Imagine then, jumping out of a plane without one. A Free Fall!
Luke Aikins – Skydiving without a parachute
On the 30th of July of last year, sometime around 5:45 PM, Luke Aikins jumped. Now, this doesn’t sound too spectacular, but fill in the details: he jumped from an airplane 25,000 feet in the air above Simi Valley, California. And he did this without a parachute. Skydiving without a parachute! Suicidal? Not if you’re Aikins.
While Aikins is a skydiving veteran, having done over 18000 skydives in his life, this was obviously a first. According to Aikins, he wanted to push the boundaries of his sport – as any true sportsman would want. To do this required not just nerves of steel and a lot of courage but also technical planning. The first step was the last part of the jump: planning the landing pad.
Dynamics of the Free Fall
This pad, which they dubbed ‘the net’, was spread out in a square of 28 feet by 28 feet. The dense reams of netting were made out of a specifically chosen and manufactured polymer. Attached to this netting were four cylinders of air. They were designed to expand and slow him down quickly once he hit the net. Any failure of this system would have meant a disastrous end to this skydiving experiment.
To man-oeuvre himself over this netting was, however, itself a task. He had to reach a terminal velocity of 193 km per hour within a short period of time. Furthermore, he had to find his way via GPS through the air during his free fall. If he didn’t reach the correct spot on time, the consequences would’ve been dire.
While the odds seemed to have been stacked against him, his experience, planning, and perseverance won out in the end. At around 4:47 PM, Luke Aikins landed safely on the netting and became the first person ever to complete skydiving without a parachute. Through this stunt, Aikins has also drawn wide attention to the sport. While his story is one of singular determination, it has also inspired many to try out the sport of skydiving.