Red Bull Stratos Skydiving Consultant
A professional skydiver with two decades of experience and more than 16,000 jumps to his credit, Luke Aikins has a lifelong history of tackling aviation challenges that are out of the ordinary. He's one of the few people with the background and body awareness to envision, fabricate and safely resolve the most precarious situations that Felix Baumgartner could encounter on his descent. Whether he's suggesting a new parachute configuration, innovating drogue deployment or determining optimal flight postures, Luke is the test subject for the mission team, willingly throwing himself into worst-case scenarios. He also works one-on-one with Felix during intensive airborne training sessions.
Born to a skydiving dynasty, Luke is on staff at Washington's Kapowsin Air Sports, and he has contributed to the family legacy with three world records. He's an expert at the precision skydiving discipline of swooping; he's one of the pioneers of combining a canopy with skis to fly vertically down mountain sides; and he's an adept BASE jumper and airplane pilot. All of that experience comes into play in Luke's role as a member of the Red Bull Air Force, an elite team of skydivers, BASE jumpers and paraglider pilots who explore and advocate the possibilities of human flight.
Luke shares his knowledge as an instructor and coach, working with jumpers ranging from U.S. Navy Seals to NASCAR driver Brian Vickers. Further, he is one of the designated Safety and Training Advisors for the United States Parachute Association - collaborating with manufacturers, USPA officials, and the world's top parachute pilots to develop and advocate training techniques, procedures and regulations intended to advance skydiving safety. Luke is also an expert aerial photographer, with work published in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Luke's advice has resulted in revisions to the chest pack and parachute setups for the Red Bull Stratos mission, and he has played a leading role in designing the drogue chute's attachment and deployment.
Luke's efforts behind the scenes give Felix time to focus on preparations such as pressure-suit fittings and training with capsule instrumentation. In evaluating aspects such as how the position of an oxygen canister or camera will affect Felix's center of gravity, and in skydiving with Felix to assess his technique, Luke has conducted test jumps from as high as 28,000 feet. He is an essential member of the team devising the progression of jumps that Felix will complete as he trains toward the target altitude of 120,000 feet.