Gary Connery

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Gary Connery (born 1969) [1] is a British skydiver, BASE jumper, and professional stuntman. [2] Connery has performed stunt-work in films. He has also acted as the stunt-double for Gary Oldman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rowan Atkinson, and John Hurt. [2] He is acknowledged as the first skydiver to land after a wingsuit jump without using a parachute. [1] [2] [3] [4] He made his first parachute jump at age 23, as part of his army training. [2]


He was the stunt-double of the Queen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. [5] He has performed 880 skydives and 450 BASE jumps. [6] He has jumped from locations such as the Eiffel Tower, Nelson's Column, the London Eye, London's Tower Bridge, and from inside the Millennium Dome. [2] [6]

Eiffel Tower

Connery jumped through the centre of the Eiffel Tower on a rainy day with winds gusting at 25 mph (40 km/h). [7]

Nelson's Column

On 9 May 2003 Connery jumped off Nelson's Column at Trafalgar Square in Central London in what was described as a "death-defying protest stunt" which was organised by Act For Tibet, in support of the Dalai Lama. [8]

He climbed the 170 feet (52 m) monument without a safety harness and jumped from the top, landing using a parachute. At the end of the jump he was arrested along with three other protesters. [8] [9] Connery admitted that the jump was "frightening". [9]

Connery was the first person to jump from Nelson's Column because up to that point the height of the monument was viewed as insufficient to allow for a successful jump. [10]

World's first wingsuit landing without a parachute

On 23 May 2012 Connery made his wingsuit jump from a helicopter flying at a height of 2,400 feet (730 m) over Ridge Wood in Buckinghamshire near his hometown of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Coming back from California (Perris Valley) in 2003, where he did his first wingsuit flight, he said: "that could be landed!" and he went for a week to do wingsuit flight training at Empuriabrava on the coast of Spain, the largest dropzone in Europe. [11] Before the final attempt, he had made two test flights landing with a parachute. [12] He had also trained for weeks in Italy and Switzerland in preparation for the jump. [13] He had to obtain permission from the Civil Aviation Authority for the dive. [14] The flight was filmed by Mark Sutton. [14]


Three seconds into his record-setting flight, [15] his wingsuit inflated, its airflow dynamics enabled controlled gliding, and his speed reached about 80 mph (130 km/h). At approximately 200 feet (61 m) over the landing strip, he changed the configuration of his wingsuit so as to decrease the gliding and vertical (falling) components of his velocity to 50 mph (80 km/h) and 15 mph (24 km/h) respectively. [16]

Just before the final approach, Connery briefly appeared to lose control but quickly recovered. [12] For added safety during landing, Connery wore a neck brace. [1] [17]


Connery landed safely on a strip made of approximately 18,600 cardboard boxes. [18] The landing strip area was 350 feet (110 m) long by 45 feet (14 m) wide and its maximum height was 12 feet (3.7 m). [16] The landing strip included separate layers each featuring cardboard boxes with varying dimensions. [19]

It took Connery about thirty seconds to emerge from the cardboard boxes. [2] Connery mentioned that although on the way down he experienced turbulence, the landing was "soft and comfortable". [20]

The landing was attended by about a hundred spectators. [18] The landing rig, also known as the box rig, [15] was constructed on the outskirts of Henley on Thames. [16]


Landing in a wingsuit without using a parachute had been one of Jeb Corliss's main objectives since 2010. [19] Corliss and other top-level wingsuit jumpers had tried for years to design wingsuits similar to the one which Connery helped design and subsequently used for his record-setting leap. [1] [6] [21]

In the beginning, Corliss thought that Connery's stunt was an April Fool's joke and that the stunt Connery was attempting was impossible. [19] Corliss added that Connery's landing was "one of the most amazing things" he had seen in his life and called it the "greatest stunt ever performed". He also added that "he bears no ill will toward the man who stole his dream" and that he goes by the Samurai code by giving respect to his opponent. [19] Corliss also expressed surprise that Connery chose to land head-first, risking a neck injury. [1]

The New York Times has compared Connery's jump to a superhero's. [1] Flying magazine has called the jump a "history-making stunt" and mentioned that Connery had confidence he would succeed because of the "excellent control" he had over his suit. The commentary also added that the risk factors should not be underestimated. [22]

Connery's landing was studied as an extreme example of the effectiveness of shock absorbing material. [17] Rhett Allain, associate professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, has analysed Connery's flight in Wired magazine's science blog Dot Physics to determine the landing velocities which allowed Connery to remain uninjured. [23] [24] Connery received a nomination for the Epic TVAdventurer of The Year Award. [5]

Queen's stunt double

The plot of one of the skits during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics had the Queen go on a secret mission with James Bond played by Daniel Craig. During the mission, the Queen was supposed to ride a helicopter with Bond and parachute at the stadium during the Olympic ceremonies. Connery acted as the Queen's stunt double. During the night of the opening ceremonies, the helicopter carrying Connery and Mark Sutton, who acted as James Bond's double, was given permission to take-off at 8:50 p.m. local time and was then directed to the stadium where it assumed a position, hovering at a height of 800 feet (240 m). [5]

Connery, wearing a salmon dress similar to the one worn by the Queen during the Olympic ceremonies, along with a blond wig, jumped out of the helicopter as did Sutton. Connery then deployed the parachute at 500 feet (150 m) revealing a Union Flag canopy. Shortly after, the real Queen entered London's Olympic stadium to applause. Connery landed at a nearby bridge. [5]

Connery had trained for months for the stunt in the early morning hours to keep it secret. [25] In preparation for the stunt, he met with Angela Kelly, the Queen's dresser so that she could make a replica of the Queen's dress for him and the Queen made her favourite black handbag available to make the stunt look more realistic. [25]


Connery has performed stunts and appeared on television and films such as Die Another Day, The Beach, Batman Begins , and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull . [15]

Family life

Connery was married to Vivienne, a café owner in Henley-on-Thames, and they have one child. [2] [15]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mary Pilon (23 May 2012). "Stuntman Takes a Superhero Plunge". New York Times . Retrieved 1 March 2013. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life," Corliss said. "Because of movies, people don't really understand what they witnessed. It's monumental for a human to land at those speeds. It took an enormous amount of courage.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Andrew Hough and Richard Alleyne (24 May 2012). "Gary Connery: stuntman in amazing 2400ft skydive without parachute A stuntman, Gary Connery, has become the first man to leap 2400 feet and safely land without using a parachute". The Daily Telegraph . Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  3. Douglas Quenqua (14 December 2012). "They Believe They Can Fly". New York Times . Retrieved 1 March 2013. In May, the British stuntman Gary Connery became the first wingsuiter to land without a parachute; normally, the jumper deploys a small chute in the last moments of the descent.
  4. Anoosh Chakelian (24 May 2012). "World's First Skydive Without a Parachute". Time magazine . Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Queen's stunt double Gary Connery up for adventurer award". BBC. 30 December 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  6. 1 2 3 "Gary Connery, Stuntman, Survives 2400ft-Leap From A Helicopter – With No Parachute". Huffington Post . 24 May 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  7. Dave Spurdens (2004). Extreme Sports . Tangerine Press. p.  44. ISBN   978-0-439-68106-3 . Retrieved 3 March 2013. Eiffel Extravaganza Gary Connery is the man (pictured right) jumping through the center of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The weather that day was terrible with 25 mph (40 kmh) winds, rain, and sleet being blown through the tower. The Big Jump ...
  8. 1 2 "Stuntman Gary Connery jumps off Nelson's Column". The Guardian . 9 May 2003. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  9. 1 2 "Protester parachutes off Nelson's Column Gary Connery said it was "frightening" A pro-Tibet campaigner has parachuted off Nelson's Column in central London". BBC. 9 May 2003. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  10. Isabel Losada (10 March 2009). A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World. HarperCollins. pp. 248–. ISBN   978-0-06-187528-1 . Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  11. Matt Higgins (31 July 2014). Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 84–. ISBN   978-0-698-16382-9.
  12. 1 2 Charlie Cooper (23 May 2012). "Gary Connery lands safely after 2,400 ft helicopter jump without parachute". The Independent . Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  13. Charlie Cooper (24 May 2012). "British daredevil stuntman leaps from plane without parachute and survives". The National Post and Agence France-Presse . Retrieved 5 March 2013. A British stuntman became the world's first skydiver to land without a parachute on Wednesday, falling 731 metres (2,400 feet) to drop safely onto a crash-pad of cardboard boxes
  14. 1 2 Roddy Mansfield (23 May 2012). "Skydiver Becomes First To Land Without Chute". Sky news. Archived from the original on 21 May 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  15. 1 2 3 4 "Gary Connery in world's first skydive without parachute". BBC. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013. During the flight, father-of-two Mr Connery dropped for three seconds before his suit "started to fly".
  16. 1 2 3 "Gary Connery plans skydive without using parachute". BBC. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  17. 1 2 Omer Mei-Dan; Michael R. Carmont (2013). Adventure and Extreme Sports Injuries. Springer. p. 88. ISBN   978-1-4471-4363-5 . Retrieved 2 March 2013. An extreme example of the effectiveness of impact energy absorbers was provided on May 23, 2012, when Gary Connery landed a wingsuit into a runway of some 18,500 cardboard boxes at Mill End Farm in the United Kingdom, without deploying a parachute, unharmed.
  18. 1 2 Erik Ortiz (24 May 2012). "Skydiver Gary Connery makes history by safely landing without parachute". New York Daily News . Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  19. "Picture story of the week: Bird man drops in". The Sunday Times . 27 May 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  20. Stephen Pope (26 May 2012). "Wingsuit Daredevil Makes Parachute-Free Landing". Flying magazine . Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  21. Liz Klimas (2 June 2012). "Physicist Explains How A Stuntman Lept From A Helicopter Without A Parachute And Lived". The Blaze . Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  22. Rhett Allain. "Skydiving Without a Parachute". Wired magazine . Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  23. 1 2 "Exclusive: Meet the Queen's stunt double and Danny Boyle's unsung Olympic heroes". Hello magazine . 3 August 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
Preceded by
Highest jump without a parachute (0.730 km)
May 23, 2012 – July 30, 2016
Succeeded by
Luke Aikins