Gary Connery

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Gary Connery (born 1970)[1] is a British skydiver, BASE jumper and professional stuntman.[2] Connery has performed stunt-work in films such as James Bond, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Batman. He has also acted as the stunt-double for Gary Oldman, Leonardo DiCaprio,[3] 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][4][5][6] He made his first parachute jump at age 23, as part of his army training.[2] He is one of Britain's best known BASE jumpers.[7]

He was the stunt-double of the Queen during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics in what became the "most talked-about" segment of the opening ceremonies.[8][9][10] He has performed 880 skydives and 450 BASE jumps.[11] 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][7][11]

Eiffel Tower[edit]

Connery jumped through the centre of the Eiffel Tower on a rainy day with winds gusting at 25 mph (40 km/h).[12]

London Eye[edit]

On 29 November 2006 Connery dressed as Cadbury's traditional chocolate-delivery agent to the ladies, the Milk Tray Man, swam the Thames in a dry suit and reached the base of the London Eye in the early morning. There he took off the dry suit revealing his dinner suit and bow tie costume, boarded one of the pods and reached the top of the Eye by taking advantage of the fact that the pods were slowly rotated for cleanup prior to being opened to the public.[7]

At 7:45 a.m. he waved to his family and friends from the top of the 443 feet (135 m) wheel and jumped. Upon landing at the nearby Jubilee Gardens he went to a local coffee shop for a cup of coffee. The London Eye staff had not noticed anything untoward at any stage of the operation and Scotland Yard did not open an investigation because there had been no complaints.[7]

Nelson's Column[edit]

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.[13]

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.[13][14] Connery admitted that the jump was "frightening".[14]

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.[15]

World's first wingsuit landing without a parachute[edit]

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.[3] Before the final attempt, he had made two test flights landing with a parachute.[16] He had also trained for weeks in Italy and Switzerland in preparation for the jump.[17] He had to obtain permission from the Civil Aviation Authority for the dive.[18] The flight was filmed by Mark Sutton.[18]

The flight[edit]

Three seconds into his record-setting flight,[19] his wingsuit inflated, its airflow dynamics enabled controlled gliding, and his speed reached about 80 mph (130 km/h).[6] 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.[20]

Just before the final approach, Connery briefly appeared to lose control but quickly recovered.[16] For added safety during landing, Connery wore a neck brace.[1][21] The descent lasted for fifty seconds.[3]

The landing[edit]

Connery landed safely on a strip made of approximately 18,600 cardboard boxes.[6][22] 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).[6][20] The landing strip included separate layers each featuring cardboard boxes with varying dimensions.[23]

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".[24]

The landing was attended by about a hundred spectators.[22] The landing rig, also known as the box rig,[19] was constructed in Temple Island Meadows at the border between Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. [20]

Reaction[edit]

Landing in a wingsuit without using a parachute had been one of Jeb Corliss's main objectives since 2010.[23] 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][11][25]

In the beginning, Corliss thought that Connery's stunt was an April Fool's joke and that the stunt Connery was attempting was impossible.[23] 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.[23] 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.[26]

Connery's landing was studied as an extreme example of the effectiveness of shock absorbing material.[21] Rhett Allain, associate professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, has analysed Connery's flight in Wired magazine's science blog Dot Physics in order to determine the landing velocities which allowed Connery to remain uninjured.[27][28] Gary Connery received a nomination for the Epic TV Adventurer of The Year Award.[10]

Queen's stunt double[edit]

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.[8]

Connery was asked to act as the Queen's stunt double and he accepted. 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).[8][9][10]

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 rounds of applause. Connery landed at a nearby bridge.[8][9][10]

Connery had trained for months for the stunt in the early morning hours to keep it secret.[9][29] 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.[29] In a subsequent interview he said that the landing in one of the bridges near the Olympic Stadium was "tight" and that he “thoroughly enjoyed getting dressed up as Queenie”. He also tweeted that he "loved the dress and was wondering if he could keep it".[9]

Films[edit]

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.[6][19]

Family life[edit]

Connery is married to Vivienne, a café owner in Henley-on-Thames, and they have two children.[2][19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Mary Pilon (May 23, 2012). "Stuntman Takes a Superhero Plunge". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-01. "“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. ^ a b c d e f g Andrew Hough and Richard Alleyne (2012-05-24). "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 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Mark Reynolds (24 May 2012). "Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's a skydiver who jumped 2,400ft WITHOUT a parachute". express.co.uk. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Douglas Quenqua (December 14, 2012). "They Believe They Can Fly". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-01. "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." 
  5. ^ Anoosh Chakelian (May 24, 2012). "World’s First Skydive Without a Parachute". Time magazine. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Rob Leigh (May 23, 2012). "Comment Wingman flies - and lands! Watch stuntman Gary Connery complete his astonishing parachuteless 2400ft skydive". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Security lapse at London Eye as staff fail to notice parachute jump". The Daily Mirror. 29 November 2006. 
  8. ^ a b c d Ian Gallagher (29 July 2012). "'Secret agent' in the coup that made the Queen a global TV comedy star.". Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "The Queen’s stunt double revealed as wingsuit daredevil". The Sun. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Queen's stunt double Gary Connery up for adventurer award". BBC. 30 December 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  11. ^ a b c "Gary Connery, Stuntman, Survives 2400ft-Leap From A Helicopter - With No Parachute". Huffington Post. 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  12. ^ 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 ..." 
  13. ^ a b "Stuntman Gary Connery jumps off Nelson's Column.". The Guardian. 9 May 2003. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  14. ^ a b "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 2013-03-03. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ a b Charlie Cooper (23 May 2012). "Gary Connery lands safely after 2,400 ft helicopter jump without parachute". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  17. ^ Charlie Cooper (24 May 2012). "British daredevil stuntman leaps from plane without parachute and survives". The National Post and Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 2013-03-05. "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" 
  18. ^ a b Roddy Mansfield (23 May 2012). "Skydiver Becomes First To Land Without Chute". Sky news. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c d "Gary Connery in world's first skydive without parachute". BBC. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-01. "During the flight, father-of-two Mr Connery dropped for three seconds before his suit "started to fly"." 
  20. ^ a b c "Gary Connery plans skydive without using parachute". BBC. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  21. ^ a b 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." 
  22. ^ a b Erik Ortiz (24 May 2012). "Skydiver Gary Connery makes history by safely landing without parachute". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  23. ^ "Picture story of the week: Bird man drops in". The Sunday Times. 27 May 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  24. ^ Stephen Pope (26 May 2012). "Wingsuit Daredevil Makes Parachute-Free Landing". Flying magazine. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  25. ^ Liz Klimas (Jun 2, 2012). "Physicist Explains How A Stuntman Lept From A Helicopter Without A Parachute And Lived". The Blaze. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  26. ^ Rhett Allain. "Skydiving Without a Parachute". Wired magazine. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  27. ^ a b "Exclusive: Meet the Queen's stunt double and Danny Boyle's unsung Olympic heroes". Hello magazine. 3 August 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 

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