Gary Connery, a 42-year-old stuntman, landed a world record today as the first man to jump out of a helicopter and safely make it to the ground without a parachute in a field in Oxfordshire, England.
The wingsuit gave him the type of freedom of movement he’d seen while studying the flight patterns of kite birds and how they use their tail to control flight. He spent weeks base jumping in Switzerland and Italy putting his new knowledge into practice.
“Kites steer by twisting their tail one way or another and I’ll be doing the same,” he told Sky News before he took the big jump.
With special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, Connery made the 2,400-foot jump in a specially modified wingsuit. He glided to the ground and landed in a strategically stacked pile of over 18,000 cardboard boxes. It took six hours for 100 volunteers and friends to set up the 350 x 40 x 12ft. runway. They used extra boxes to spell out “Go Gary” on the approach to motivate Connery while he was in the air.
He flew for just under one minute, navigating some rough turbulence, before completing the landing. Just seconds before reaching the target, he flared his suit to decrease his descent and glide angle before gliding into the boxes.
Many journalists and camera crews were in attendance, eager to show and tell the world about the never-before-seen event. Wingsuit pilot Mark Sutton jumped out after Connery to film the stunt from the air but deployed his parachute before making his landing. Connery’s wife and son were also waiting on the ground.
Skydivers have been searching for a way to jump without a parachute since 1997. It was then that Patrick De Gavardon, French daredevil, fell to his death while making the first attempt to complete the feat that was accomplished by Connery today.
Follow the entire event via Twitter as a Sky News contributor, Rodney Mansfield, watches from the sideline.
Photo credit: Sky News