New York Times, August 1, 2016
If you think skydiving is scary, try doing it from twice the usual height and without a parachute. After two minutes of free-fall, you must position yourself to land on a net less than half the size of a football field, spread out 200 feet above the earth.
On Saturday, Luke Aikins took that challenge. He was the first person ever to attempt a skydive with neither a parachute nor a wingsuit — and, in a feat broadcast live on Fox, the first ever to complete one.
Mr. Aikins began his dive at an altitude of 25,000 feet, just 4,000 feet short of the summit of Mount Everest. Viewers watched him plummet, legs and arms spread, stomach down. Around 18,000 feet, he removed his oxygen mask and passed it to one of the three parachuted assistants diving with him. He aimed for the center of the net, guided by GPS and lights. Seconds before impact, he flipped onto his back and landed safely in the California desert.
He lay cocooned in the net for a few moments, hands over his face. Then he clambered out, into the arms of his wife, Monica, with whom he has a 4-year-old son.
“We did and cannot thank everyone enough for the support,” Mr. Aikins wrote on Facebook shortly after the jump. “My vision was always proper preparation and that if you train right you can make anything happen. Thank you!!!!”
The stunt, planned for two years, almost did not happen. At first, Mr. Aikins, 42, who has skydived 18,000 times since he was 12 years old, felt the idea was a bit much even for him.
“Like any normal, sane person, I said: ‘Thank you, but no thank you. I have a wife and a son, and I’ve got a life to live,’” he told People magazine. “Then, two weeks went by and I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘If somebody said you had to do this, how could it be done?’”
Then, just two days ago, SAG-Aftra, the screen actors’ union, issued a “do not work” order barring its members from taking part in the production unless Mr. Aikins agreed to wear a parachute — something that, Mr. Aikins said in the live broadcast, would actually make the jump more dangerous by adding weight to his body, thus increasing the force of the impact.
As Mr. Aikins’s plane approached the start point of his dive, 25,000 feet above Simi Valley, Calif., he strapped on the parachute but told viewers he would not open it. At the last minute, the union dropped its objection, and Mr. Aikins removed the parachute before jumping from the plane.
Mr. Aikins’s publicist, Peter Moran, did not respond to an emailed request for an interview with his client on Saturday evening. But speaking to reporters at the scene, Mr. Aikins was euphoric.
“I’m almost levitating — it’s incredible, this thing that just happened,” he told reporters after climbing out of the net, according to E! Online. “The words I want to say, I can’t even get out of my mouth.”
The entire Fox broadcast of Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent is available here:
One Night Event Will Take Viewers Live Around The Globe To Experience Nature In Action On All Seven Continents
(Washington, D.C. – March 15, 2016) National Geographic Channel (NGC) today announced the greenlight of a new one night, groundbreaking event, EARTH LIVE! (wt) to be produced by Bunim/Murray Productions in association with Berman Productions. EARTH LIVE! will be a fast-paced global journey like no other. Broadcasting live across all seven continents, using cutting edge camera technology, and controlled by the biggest stars in nature cinematography, in-studio hosts will throw to locations around the world for look-ins at wildlife activity as it happens. For more information, visit http://www.natgeotv.com or follow us on Twitter using @NGC_PR.
The show was announced by Courteney Monroe, Chief Executive Officer, National Geographic Global Networks during the network’s upfront presentation in the Onyx Room at The Park Hyatt in New York City.
“Earth Live! aims to be THE ultimate live broadcast from the natural world,” said Tim Pastore, president of original programming and production, NGC. “No one has ever attempted to do this on such a large scale and only National Geographic has the ability to do so. We’ve had a storied history of wowing audiences with tremendous visuals for nearly 128 years, and this project takes that wow factor to the next level.”
“For one night, viewers will be on the edge of their seats as we fling them around the world, literally going inside the lion’s den, up into the treetops, and below the ocean surface,” said Gil Goldschein, chairman and CEO of Bunim/Murray Productions. “We’re excited National Geographic Channel has embraced this incredibly ambitious global journey, and look forward to sharing the awe-inspiring natural world LIVE with audiences.”
“To bring these stunning visuals into homes, we will employ the latest and greatest in capture technology, including night vision cameras that shoot in full color, high definition views from outer space, and National Geographic’s own Crittercam,” said Al Berman of Berman Productions.
Viewers will be transported to feeding time on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, then travel to emperor penguins meeting their chicks for the first time, and everywhere in between.
EARTH LIVE! (wt) is produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, a Banijay Group Company, in association with Berman Productions, for National Geographic Channel. For Bunim Murray Productions, executive producers are Al Berman and Gil Goldschein. For National Geographic Channel, senior vice president, programming and development, is Alan Eyres and president, original programming and production, is Tim Pastore.
About Al Berman
Al Berman is one of today’s leading, American television producers and show runners known for live television event programming, specials and series like Survivor,The Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, Rockstar:Inxs and Live From Space. He has created and executive produced some of the highest rated and groundbreaking live shows in television history, while logging more than 6000 hours of live network television and receiving 4 Emmy awards.
As Executive Producer along with Mark Burnett, on Survivor and other shows, Berman created the “live reveal” and originated a template for the reunion shows/live finales that are ubiquitous on broadcast and cable television today. Nearly 60 million viewers watched as Richard Hatch won the first season of Survivor and Berman continued to produce the live broadcasts of Survivor for the next 9 seasons.
Berman went on the create and executive produce finales for many of the biggest hits on network television, The Apprentice on NBC which gathered 29 million viewers for its first season finale and which Berman produced for the next 14 seasons, and The Biggest Loser on NBC - 11 million viewers in the season one finale and produced by Berman for the next 10 seasons. Other finales include The Contender Live Finale from Caesar's Palace on NBC, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's The Simple Life on Fox, and Gold Rush on Discovery.
Berman began his career in television news, culminating in 15 successful years in network news as the Executive Producer of such shows as The CBS Morning News, The Early Show and America Tonight, along with Special Events coverage and traveling the world with Dan Rather as a Senior Producer on the CBS Evening News. He ran special events coverage from Ground Zero on 9/11.
Berman has also turned his talents to producing series television, such as the groundbreaking and prescient live music competition CBS series, Rockstar: INXS, the comedic NBC/Jerry Seinfeld series The Marriage Ref, and FX cable stalwart, The Ultimate Fighter Live (2013).
Berman Productions always seeks to break new ground, creating templates for specials and limited series. One such production in 2014 was a collaboration with NASA to produce an unprecedented 6 hours of live television from the International Space Station and Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, called Live From Space. The broadcasts aired on NatGeo and on Channel 4 in the UK to incredible reviews and a Prime Time Emmy award for Second Screen Experience. Other specials that Berman produced or lent his consulting expertise to include the multiple network broadcast of America: A Tribute to Heroes, ABC’s Challenge America, America's Most Wanted Presents Judgment Night:DNA on FOX, NBC’s America’s Favorite Mom, NBC’s Guinness World Records Live Top 100, and Fox’s Stars in Danger working with Bunim Murray, amongst others.
Recent developments include projects testing the limits of human athleticism and endurance with adventurers: Nik Wallenda/high wire artist, Alex Honnold/free solo climber, Alain Robert/”The French Spiderman”, Bello Nock/comic daredevil, Eddie Braun/stuntman, Luke Aikins/record-setting skydiver and others.