Mark Sutton (1971-2013) Wingsuit Flyer and Stuntman

Ocean Wingsuit Flying Formation
Ocean Wingsuit Flying Formation | Source

Mark Sutton, Stuntman and Wingsuit Enthusiast

Mark Sutton was just 42 years old when he died in 2013. He crashed into a mountain whilst he was filming an episode of a television series about his favorite sport, wingsuit flying. It was his love of aerial sports that had brought him to the attention of the world just a year earlier.

He was watched by millions around the world as he parachuted out of the sky as the stunt-double for actor Daniel Craig in his role of James Bond. The dramatic sequence was part of the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Mark Sutton and Gary Connery (a fellow stuntman) wearing costumes, jumped from a helicopter into the main Olympic Stadium. Mark Sutton was dressed as James Bond and Gary Connery was incognito as a Queen Elizabeth II clone. The parachute jump was televised live in front of capacity Olympic crowds. The video below is a clip from that broadcast.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, London Olympics 2012

Mark Sutton Was Passionate About Flying

Mark Sutton served for several years as an officer in the British Army before changing to a career in the financial services sector. Outside his “day job” he loved adrenaline inducing sports and he was an experienced parachutist and wingsuit flyer. He was one of the best flyers in the world at the time of his death.

Wingsuit flying is a relatively new sport. It relies on the ability of the flyer to maneuver their body around obstacles wearing an aerodynamic “flying squirrel” suit. It is dangerous sport which requires skill and nerves of steel. Mark’s aeronautical skills meant that he was chosen to be the stunt double for actor Daniel Craig in 2012. It is ironic that after achieving recognition for playing the James Bond 007 stunt role, he should have died so tragically just a year later. He was just 42 years old when on August 14, 2013 he collided with a mountain whilst wing-diving near Chamonix in Switzerland.

The video below was made by Epic TV, the television company that were filming Mark at the time of the accident. In it his colleagues talk about what happened that day.

Death and the Extreme Sport of Wingsuit Flying

The death of Mark Sutton in a wingsuit flying accident was not the first that year. Although relatively few people take part in the sport, he was already the fourteenth person to die in this type of accident in 2013.

Epic TV (a web TV channel) was making a program about extreme sports and had organized three days of filming. Mark Sutton died as he took part in a warm-up flying exercise prior to undertaking the main flight. As he descended from a height of 10,800 feet (3,300 meters), he went off course and crashed into the mountain. He dropped out of the sky at speeds of up to 155 mph (249 kilometers per hour). The impact of the crash was so great that DNA analysis had to be used to identify his body.

A Short History of Wing-suit Flying 1900 to 2013

Wingsuit flying as a sport is a relatively modern phenomenon. It is just the latest in a series of attempts made by human beings to try to fly like birds. Advances in new materials have resulted in the development of a sturdy inflatable wing-suit. Pioneers of the sport had to design flying suits that took account of wind resistance. They also needed to work out a way to control their descent velocity. Until the advent of modern helicopters and small planes, the height of the early descents was relatively small.

Some of the early flying suit designs earned their wearers nicknames such as “bird- man” or “bat-man”. The current design which evolved from the 1990s onwards has been likened to a flying squirrel. Extra pieces of material are attached between a flyer’s arms and legs and this increases the surface area of the human being. With an increased surface area a human is able to air-glide more easily and thus simulate flight. The video below gives a brief history of the evolution of wing-suit flying.

Extreme Sports

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World Record Wingsuit Jumps

The highest and longest wing-suit jumps according to “The Guinness Book of World Records” were set by Columbian wing-suit flyer, Jhonathan Florez in April 2012. The jumps took place in La Guajira in Colombia and the following figures were recorded.

The longest wing-suit flight took place lasting 9 minutes and 6 seconds. The highest altitude wing-suit jump was logged as being 11,358 meters or 37,265 feet. To date these records remain unbeaten.

Wingsuit Flyers Over Heavy Clouds
Wingsuit Flyers Over Heavy Clouds | Source

The World’s Fastest Flying Human Being, Norwegian Espen Fadnes 2010

Dangerous sports have always attracted supporters and wingsuit flying is no exception. It is probably the closest that Man can get to the sensation of flying through the air. The high accident and death rates associated with this sport will not deter adrenaline-junkies. For those who have the time, money and nerve to follow this sport, it continues to be highly rated.

The video below shows Norwegian enthusiast, Espen Fadnes, in flight. He was named the World’s Fastest Flying Human Being in 2010. The photography is breathtaking and his flying experience unique.

Tips for Successful Wingsuit Flying

The World’s Fastest Flying Human Being, Espen Fadnes gives these tips to help you achieve a successful wing-suit flight.

1. Prepare yourself: as you walk up the mountain collect your thoughts and remain calm.

2. Focus before you jump: visualize your jump in your mind before you actually do it.

3. Check your flying equipment: the harness needs to be tight enough so it won’t slip off in flight.

The Gruesome Statistics Relating to Skydiving Sports

The following figures are taken from the website Wingsuit fly (dot) com. They cover the period 1981 to 2012.

50 people died flying in wingsuits.

80 people died when their parachute failed to open.

The fatality rate for all skydiving sports combined is approximately 1 death per 100,000 jumps.

For wingsuit flying the death rate rises to approximately 1 death per 500 jumps.

The Cost of Learning to Wingsuit Fly

Accredited Learner Course US $1,950 (£1,200)

180 additional jumps US $6,000 (£4,000)

Parachute US $3,200 (£2,000)

Other equipment US $800 (£500)

Wingsuit US $1,200 (£800)

Wingsuit Course US $800 (£500)

Total Cost in 2014 = US $13,950 (£9,000) plus a time commitment of 18 months in which to complete a minimum of 200 freefall jumps before starting a wing-suit flying course.

Training Health and Safety

Because of the high accident rate associated with wingsuit flying; skydiving and parachute bodies recommend that more general aerial experience is obtained first before you attempt wingsuit flying. USPA (United States Parachute Association) requires its members to have at made at least 200 freefall skydives before trying flying with a wingsuit. The Freefall University in Spain sets similar conditions for wingsuit flights (as do most other countries).


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Wow! You have to be really committed to this as it's so expensive and I guess you have to be totally mad as well!! There is no way I would jump out of serviceable plane with a parachute, let alone jump off a cliff like this. It looked frighteningly close to the cliff edge. I admire the nerves of steel but the statistics are not good are they?

Great hub and videos. Ann

Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Beth Eaglescliffe 2 years ago from UK Author

I agree the statistics are mind-numbing, but every sport has its enthusiasts no matter what the danger (or maybe that's the attraction). I love the videos of wing-suit flying but I would never want to actually try it myself.

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