After leaping from an airplane Luke Aikins rocketed toward earth for two minutes, and then calmly flipped onto his back at the last second and landed in a 100-by-100-foot net in California.
Cheers rose from those who gathered at the Big Sky movie ranch on the outskirts of Simi Valley to watch the stunt, including his family.
The 42-year-old skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps made history as the first person to survive a leap without a parachute and land safely in a net.
As the audience 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 members.
The jump — from the death-defying altitude of 25,000 feet — makes Aikins the only skydiver ever to go from plane to planet Earth without a parachute.
The stunt, broadcast live on the Fox network for the TV special "Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent," nearly didn't come off as planned when Aikins revealed just before climbing into his plane that the Screen Actors Guild had ordered him to wear a parachute to ensure his safety.
Aikins didn't say what prompted the original restriction, but SAG spokeswoman Pamela Greenwalt said the union and producers "could not come to an agreement on the safest way to pursue this stunt and therefore we could not sanction it to go forward under a union agreement."
Aikins said he considered pulling out at that point because having the parachute canister on his back would make his landing in the net 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. Aikins left the plane without the chute.
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.
Then the others opened their parachutes and left him on his own.
Aikins was able hit the net with pinpoint precision thanks to GPS alerts in his helmet and a sophisticated lighting setup on the ground that was visible from more than 25,000 feet up.
Aikins was able to alter his course with just the slightest adjustments of his hands, said Talley, who added that experienced skydivers have "incredible control" over where they land.
Source: Associated Press