Gary Connery lands safely after 2,400 ft helicopter jump without parachute

 

The countryside around Henley-on-Thames is well-known for an abundance of red kites, large birds of prey that soar over the wide green fields and circle on the thermals of a summer day.

Today the kites were keeping strange company. Gary Connery, 42, a veteran film stuntman, became the first man to leap out of a helicopter and land safely back on earth, without using a parachute. He did it with the aid of a specially designed “wingsuit”: a contraption that, on land, makes Gary look like a flying squirrel, but in the air allowed him to come closer to natural flight than a human being has probably ever come.

Speaking to The Independent before the stunt, which took place in and above a farmer's field near his hometown of Henley, Mr Connery admitted to being “a bit scared”, but assured onlookers – not among them his long-suffering but supportive wife Vivienne – that he would tell them whether or not wingsuits are dangerous, once his jump was over.

Two test jumps later and he was hovering 2,400 feet above the ground in a helicopter, preparing to make stunt history. To succeed, he would need to leap from the aircraft, then guide his suit like a magic carpet down to earth, where a giant landing strip of 18,600 cardboard boxes, 350 feet long, 50 feet wide and 12 feet had been constructed for him, nearly a mile from the jump site. During the test jumps he released his parachute just before landing. This final time, it was just him, the wingsuit and a lot of clear blue sky. Organisers estimated that Connery would be hitting the boxes at 50mph.

“No-one's ever done this before,” said Connery. “So we don't really know what's going to happen but I've got every confidence in the boxes.”

Looking on nervously were a crew of dozens of fellow stuntmen and friends who had worked for hours to construct the box rig, along with Connery's wife, his two children Lydia, 19 and Kali, 15, his brother John, his father Chris, and his (slightly exasperated) mother, Hazel.

“He was a stuntman from the age of five,” she said, recalling various incidents from Connery's youth, including an bicycle crashed into a river and a visit to a dry ski slope that ended up with her son spread-eagled in the car park after an enthusiastic ski jump. “If you told him something was impossible, he'd insist on proving you wrong.”

Before the jump, the helicopter hovered for what seemed an eternity, then out dropped two tiny shapes, Connery and his cameraman, 2,400 feet up, tiny specks on the summer sky. For the first few seconds they plummeted through the air then the wingsuits inflated and they began their descent, gliding like birds of prey riding on air currents. On the way down Connery appeared to be losing control of the suit and the crowd below held their breath: a freak gust of wind and he would miss the boxes. But a matter of seconds later, it was clear that he was going to make it. Sure enough, Gary Connery returned to earth with an almighty crash, tearing through the boxes at 50mph. He emerged, completely unscathed, moments later.

“I'm overwhelmed,” he told the people on the ground. “It was an amazing feeling. There was a bit of turbulence and I experienced a lot of bouncing, but the landing was comfortable and soft. These suits are amazing.” And are they dangerous? “Absolutely no! Do I look hurt?”

Connery's wife Vivienne, who greeted him with a kiss and bottle of champagne said she was “relieved it's all over.”

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

KS2 Teacher required from October

£90 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Hull: Key Stage 2 Supply Teacher requ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures (an SThree br...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor