When British daredevil Gary Connery first announced plans to make a wingsuit jump over England and land without a parachute, the one question on everybody’s mind was, how in the world would he pull it off?
We got our answer on Wednesday as Connery leapt from a helicopter hovering over the English countryside at 2,400 feet, soared through the sky and crash-landed into a giant pile of cardboard boxes. The scene was reminiscent of a stunt you might see on the TV show Fear Factor, except that the risk level was ratcheted up several notches in the case of Connery’s history-making stunt.
The 42-year-old used a specially designed wingsuit to make the death-defying leap above the fields of Oxfordshire. It was the first time anyone has successfully jumped from such a height without deploying a parachute (although Connery donned a parachute for the record-setting fall, for whatever good it would have done him).
The adrenaline junkie, who has performed stunts in Hollywood films including the Indiana Jones series, Batman Begins and The Beach, helped develop the suit, which allows him to glide through the air similar to how flying squirrels fly, and with exceptional maneuverability.
After jumping out of the helicopter, Connery plunged toward the earth, accelerating to a speed of about 80 miles per hour as he aimed for his landing spot. The short flight ended with him crashing into a specially made “runway” constructed of around 18,000 cardboard boxes.
Before attempting the flight, Connery said he was “100 percent confident” he would succeed. Minutes after landing, he was celebrating with champagne. “I feel incredible,” he said. “Just completely elated. I have been training and planning for this record attempt for many years now and I am so proud to have achieved a world first.”
It’s our guess that Connery was so confident he could pull off the stunt because of the excellent control he has over his wingsuit. Still, to say the flight was devoid of risk would be to ignore all the things that could have gone wrong. Thankfully, everything went just as planned as Connery entered the record books. What it means for the future of the sport of wingsuit jumping remains to be seen.
Watch the video of the jump.