Safety tests on the net that would catch Luke Aikins indicated that the risk-motivated American skydiver might not survive the seven kilometer jump without a parachute.
To come out alive, he had to navigate throwing himself from a plane above California's Simi Valley on Saturday, reaching terminal velocity (193 km/hour) in a belly-to-earth fall that lasted about two minutes, and land inside the 30 meter by 30 meter net awaiting him just above the desert floor.
"If I wasn’t nervous I would be stupid," he said ahead of the jump Saturday, according to The Guardian. "We’re talking about jumping without a parachute, and I take that very seriously. It’s not a joke."
At least one trial run with a dummy failed, with the weight crashing through the net.
After two years of planning, trials and errors, though, the 42-year-old stunt man lept from a Cessna along with three other skydivers (who had parachutes) who recorded the descent and carried gear Aikins needed early in the jump, like an oxygen mask.
Aikins fell spreadeagle, then rolled onto his back moments before impact. The net stretched low to cushion his fall as he entered record books as the first netted freefall from that height.
He lay motionless for several moments as the net was lowered to the ground. Then, Aikins sprang to his feet, arms victoriously in the air, and hugged his wife.
"I'm almost levitating, it's incredible," he said after landing.