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Heaven Sent: A Death-Defying Feat of Negotiation

The plane was ready to take off.
Stunt skydiver Luke Aikins was about to attempt to set a new world record for the highest jump from a plane without a parachute — aired on live television for the Fox broadcast Heaven Sent.

Just one hiccup: Entertainment industry labor union SAG-AFTRA would not grant clearance unless Aikins agreed to wear a parachute.

Luckily, Loeb & Loeb had an experienced negotiator on-site. Used to negotiating time-sensitive collective bargaining agreements and getting productions back up and running quickly during union-related work stoppages, she reached an understanding with SAG-AFTRA just minutes before the scheduled jump.

Here’s how it unfolded …

T minus 72 hours and counting. SAG-AFTRA determines the jump as planned is too dangerous. Without SAG AFTRA clearance, more than a dozen critical stunt performers could face disciplinary action if they participate.

T minus 27 hours and counting. The show’s producers place an urgent call to Loeb: “We were unable to get SAG AFTRA to reverse its decision. Can you help?”

Tapping into long-standing industry guild and union relationships, Loeb’s leading entertainment labor lawyer immediately contacts SAG-AFTRA to connect the right union representatives with the producers’ team of experts — experienced stunt coordinators and performers, NASA engineers, and scientists who designed and tested the jump and can explain the abundant safety measures in place. Talks continue throughout the day. 

T minus two hours and counting. SAG-AFTRA still refuses to clear the jump unless Aikins agrees to wear a parachute. 

Aikins has not rehearsed with the parachute and fears the equipment would change his weight, the aerodynamics of his body, and his landing — actually increasing his chances of getting hurt. Knowing the jump must happen on schedule for the live broadcast, he reluctantly takes the parachute and prepares to board the plane.

T minus one hour and counting. While Aikins and the stunt team make last-minute adjustments in the air, delicate negotiations with SAG-AFTRA representatives are happening on the ground. Minutes before the scheduled jump, an understanding is reached.

With no time to spare, Aikins jumps without a parachute — making history by free-falling through the air and landing safely before millions of live viewers.

One of the producers said of Loeb’s role in the successful stunt: “You were heaven sent!”