Mark Sutton (1971-2013), James Bond Double, Wingsuit Flyer, and Stuntman

Updated on January 4, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

Wingsuit flying gives an aerial view of the world.
Wingsuit flying gives an aerial view of the world. | 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.

The Wingsuit Community Honors Mark Sutton

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 wingsuit flyer glides over snow covered mountains.
A wingsuit flyer glides over snow covered mountains. | Source

A Short History of Wingsuit Flying

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 wingsuit. 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 wingsuit flying.

Wingsuit Flying From 1900 to 2013

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Wingsuit Flying World Records

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

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

Wingsuits enable flyers to rise above rain clouds.
Wingsuits enable flyers to rise above rain clouds. | Source

Alexander Polli's Death 2016 Made Into a Movie

The death toll from this daredevil sport continues apace. In 2016, there were 7 fatalities and in 2017 so far (October) there have been 4 deaths. There is a fascination with this sport that continues to attract young people no matter what the danger.

Wingsuit flying enthusiasts will flock to see the latest movie (released October 2017) from Vertigo Films. "Base" was filmed in 2015 when Alexander Polli was alive and he was just 31 years old when he died near Chamonix less than a year later. An Italian-Norwegian skiing and snowboarding champion, Polli was a risk-taker with a cavalier attitude to life and death. The film serves as a memorial to a sport which is both fascinating and horrific to watch.

Official Trailer for "Base" the Movie

Tips for Successful Wingsuit Flying

The World’s Fastest Flying Human Being, Espen Fadnes, gives these tips to help you achieve a successful wingsuit 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 first lesson in learning to fly takes place at ground level.
The first lesson in learning to fly takes place at ground level. | Source

The Gruesome Statistics of 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.

Sunrise is magical for flyers.
Sunrise is magical for flyers. | Source

The Cost of Learning to Wingsuit Fly

The total cost of learning to wingsuit fly in 2017 is approximately US $16,000 (£9,800), plus a time commitment of 18 months in which to complete a minimum of 200 freefall jumps before starting a wingsuit flying course. This cost is made up of the following.

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).

Transport to flight sites: US $800 - 3,200 (£500 - 2,000).

Membership fees US $1,000 (£600).

Wingsuit Course US $800 (£500).

Training and 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).


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  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

    Beth Eaglescliffe 3 years ago from UK

    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.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 3 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