Gary Connery: The Man Who Jumped Out of a Helicopter
It was May 23, 2012, and Connery was plummeting through the skies just outside of Henley-on-Thames toward a large amount of cardboard boxes stacked neatly on the ground below. With equal parts skill and bravery, the 42-year-old piloted his wingsuit to a relatively smooth landing atop the boxes without deploying a parachute. He is the first person to attempt such a stunt and survive. Almost equally as amazing as his record-breaking landing is the fact that Gary Connery wasn’t a name known by many before the jump, even within wingsuit diving circles, even though he has completed over 850 skydives, 450 BASE jumps, and was instrumental in the development of the modern-day wingsuit. I found this lack of recognition surprising, as Connery has been a stunt double in many well-known movies in addition to his wingsuit work. They include the Harry Potter films, The Beach, and Die Another Day. That’s not to mention that he was Queen Elizabeth II’s stunt double for her hilarious ascent via parachute during the London 2012 Olympics Games Opening Ceremony. It was with this in mind that I called him up for a (much too brief ) chat. I’m happy to report that he is one heck of a friendly guy. He fended off even the silliest of my questions with cheer, among which was this beauty: “So, how do you actually prepare for landing without a parachute?” He says it’s all about practice and feeling comfortable in the air. What’s not so obvious is that, in the months before the landing, he performed several similar jumps (bailing out with a parachute at the very end) while wearing a FlySight, an aerial GPS unit used to gauge his speed and rate of descent. The data showed that he was able to regularly slow himself to speeds of less than 60 miles per hour while flying about two horizontal feet for every vertical foot lost—rates at which he was comfortable flying into cardboard boxes. Connery doesn’t have any pre-flight rituals or superstitions, and he didn’t even have trouble sleeping the night before the big landing. Simply put, he comes up with a brilliant new challenge, puts time and effort into solving it, and then is completely comfortable in his attempt at it. He has absolute confidence in himself and his abilities. It will be exciting to see what he does next. Gary Connery will be attempting another “chute-less” wingsuit landing in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 4, 2013.