Luke Aikins doesn't care if you call him crazy.
And just to be clear, there's garden-variety crazy — then there's out-of-this-world crazy.
And then there's what he's about to try.
Even among special-operations units, HALO — or high-altitude, low-opening — parachutists are an elite few. You jump from miles above the planet only to open your parachute shortly before impact.
Now this civilian skydiver is planning go one better. In fact, you could call him the world's first intentional high-altitude, no-opening jumper. As in, no parachute opening. Not even a wingsuit to help slow his descent.
Just a big net to catch him as he lands.
"Whenever people attempt to push the limits of what's considered humanly possible, they're invariably described as crazy," says Aikins, who's been planning the historic attempt for months. "But to me, this jump is simply the next logical step in a lifetime of extreme challenges."
Indeed, a third-generation skydiver, Aikins has been jumping from airplanes for 26 years, logging more than 18,000 jumps.
As the owner of Para Tactics, Aikins provides advanced skydiving training to elite military jumpers and serves as a safety adviser for the United States Parachute Association, an instructor to the instructors.
He was also part of the training crew for Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking jump from space.
Now it's Aikins' turn.
An array of 200-foot-tall cranes in the southern Californian desert will suspend a massive net that he will use — if everything goes according to plan — to land safely.
"It'll take two to three minutes for him to reach the ground. We don't know exactly because no one has ever done this before," says Jeff Farrington, Aikins' uncle and owner of the Washington state skydiving school where Aikins grew up learning to jump since he was a kid.
Farrington says Aikins will use a special "light guidance system" beamed from the landing zone, similar to what pilots use to maintain proper glide slope when landing in low-visibility weather.
To survive the fall, Aikins will have to flip over and land on his back, a technique he's been perfecting at the iFly "indoor skydiving" wind tunnel in Seattle, Farrington says.
Assuming all goes well, he won't, however, be able to claim the record for "highest fall survived without parachute." According to Guinness World Records, that title will still belong to Vesna Vulovic, the Yugoslavian airline stewardess who fell from more than 33,000 feet when her DC-9 blew apart in a 1972 terrorist bombing.
Although she suffered massive injuries and was in a coma for weeks, she eventually made a full recovery, according to Guinness.
Aikins' stunt will be broadcast live as a one-hour special at 8 p.m. ET/PT Saturday, July 30, on FOX.
Jon R. Anderson covers all that's fun, fascinating, and formidable about military life, from off-duty travel and entertainment to family and fitness. Jon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.