Published on May 23, 2012
A stuntman has made aviation history by becoming the first skydiver in the world to land without the use of a parachute.
Gary Connery, 42, from Oxfordshire, leapt from a helicopter a mile above Henley then glided down using a specially adapted wing suit before landing on a "runway" of 18,000 cardboard boxes.
"It was so comfortable, so soft. My calculations obviously worked out and I'm glad they did," he told Sky News afterwards.
His wife Vivian said she was "relieved its all over".
To prepare for the jump he underwent weeks of intensive training in Switzerland and Italy, leaping from mountains and cliffs to perfect his wing suit glide angle.
As part of the preparations, Mr Connery studied the flight of kite birds and how they use their tail to control their flight direction.
"Kites steer by twisting their tail one way or another and I'll be doing the same," he explained before the jump.
Mr Connery made his first parachute jump aged 23 after joining the Army.
He went on to become a professional stuntman, completing 880 skydives and 450 base jumps.
He has acted as stunt-double for the likes of Gary Oldman, John Hurt and Rowan Atkinson and appeared in films such as The Beach, Die Another Day, Batman Begins and Indiana Jones.
He also leapt from the Eiffel Tower, Nelson's Column, Tower Bridge and the London Eye.
"This stunt will get great recognition and will be a post in the runway of aviation history," Mr Connery said beforehand.
"I'm sure plenty of people will think I'm bonkers but that's OK, I take that as a compliment."
Landing a wing suit without a parachute has been a dream of skydivers since the modern wing suit was invented in 1997 by French skydiver and aristocrat Patrick De Gayardon.
The unique design of his suit enabled "pilots" to barrel-roll, swoop and fly in formation.
Tragically, Mr De Gayardon died a year later in a skydiving accident in Hawaii after a modification to his suit caused his parachute to malfunction.
US skydiver Jeb Corliss planned to become the first to land a wing suit without a parachute but his plans were suspended after he was seriously injured during a recent jump in South Africa.
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