|The net at only 2,000 feet. At this point, it doesn't look like he's over it.|
As bad as the world is, people are still doing cool things.
If you're not familiar with what happened Saturday night, let me repeat:
A man jumped out of a plane from five miles up and landed in a specially designed net.
Nothing like that has ever been done or attempted before.
This was not a trick. Veteran skydiver Luke Aikens was wearing only a standard (non-winged) jumpsuit and a helmet. That's it.
From the plane, the 100 x 100 ft. double net didn't look like a postage stamp - it looked like a pin point.
It took two minutes for him to hit it.
Unbelievably, he landed precisely in the center, flipping onto his back at the last second to avoid having his spine curved into breaking by the wrap-around give of the net.
Aikens was assisted by three comrades who, wearing parachutes themselves, peeled off at 5,000 feet. Read more about his jump here.
Here is the video. Pay attention to the "thermometer" recording his progress and how many seconds he has left. If your heart is not in your mouth, then you are not a human being (or you are braver than I).
Obviously, skydivers have done cool things before. The first wingsuit landing without a parachute was made in 2012. It ended not in a net, but in a gigantic pile of cardboard boxes.
And of course there have been incidents where skydivers have survived their parachutes only partially opening or have grabbed onto other parachutists (because their own parachute wouldn't open), etc.
Interestingly, there are three recorded cases of people surviving mile-high plus free falls. All of them were pilots during WWII - a Brit, a Russian and an American. Their "nets" were, respectively, trees, a snow covered ravine and the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railway station.
Perhaps the most famous case was that of a Yugoslavian stewardess who survived a fall of 33,000 feet when her airplane blew up (probably from a terrorist bomb) mid-flight. While her case was indeed miraculous, Vesna Vulovic, 22, went down in the detached tail section, and thus might have been somewhat slowed and/or cushioned by it.
Without a parachute or wingsuit, you reach terminal velocity after about 1,000 feet or so - that's 120 mph if you're face-down with your arms out and slightly faster if you're tumbling randomly. If you wish to go into a dive you can approach 180 mph.
But to return to Mr. Aikens, who has made over 18,000 lifetime jumps and comes from a family of aviators, to me the most incredible thing was how he managed to hit that net. Throughout the jump, the "Luke Cam" records his view of the net below. It gets "larger" as he approaches, but even just a few seconds away, it seemed to me no larger than, say a kid's trampoline as viewed from the roof of my ten-story condo building. See the post title picture, above.
For the fun of it, below, I've also included a video of the record-breaking wing-suit dive into cardboard boxes stunt and a clip each from two of my favorite cheesy skydiving movies. (Yes, cheesy skydiving movies are a genre.)
Gary Connery, 23 May, 2012, Oxfordshire:
Terminal Velocity (1994), Charlie Sheen and Nastassja Kinski:
Drop Zone (1994), Wesley Snipes, Yancy Butler: