He’d made 3,000 parachute jumps without a mishap until early June, when he planted a foot on a landing on wet grass and snapped bones in his lower leg.
Steve Conroy, an expert parachutist, stuntman and a private pilot, had some rare spare time on his hands, so he flew into Guntersville Saturday morning with his friend John Hefferon for the EAA pancake breakfast at the Guntersville Airport.
Hefferon is a commercial pilot with Southwest Airlines and is looking at possibly moving to Guntersville when he retires in a few years.
The men live in Mallard’s Landing, a flying community built around an airport in Georgia where the residents have hangars adjacent to their homes as well as garages.
Conroy went to jump school in the military with the Marines and did tours of duty in Aghanistan, Japan and Thailand. He became a jumpmaster and parachute instructor.
“I realized I could make a lot of money jumping out of airplanes,” he said.
And he soon started working in the movies.
You’re sure to recognize some of the many TV shows and films he’s worked on: The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Captain America: Civil War, Spider Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Black Panther, Taken 3, The Hunger Games and many others.
He’s been punched by Liam Neeson and a bevy of pretend super heroes. Sometimes, Conroy is actually the guy behind the mask in some of those superhero costumes in the movies.
He also does parachute jumps into sporting events, often popping smoke or carrying a flag as he descends. The biggest of those jumps was at this year’s Indianapolis 500.
He teaches people to parachute when he's not working in the movies.
He does tandem jumps from time-to-time with his Belgian malinois dog, Kaia.
“She started jumping out of airplanes when she was 5 weeks old,” he said. “It’s nothing for her.”
Those jumps have a two-fold purpose. She’s a stunt dog and appeared in a movie that had a dog jumping out of an airplane. Also, Conroy trains special unit type folks who might be making a jump into a hostile area with their dog.
“You have to do some training with them because it’s the only way they can be inserted where they’re going with their dog,” he said.
He’s posted some photos of himself and his dog jumping on social media and caught a bit of grief from animals rights folks.
His reply is he goes by the American Humane Society manual for working with dogs.
Conroy has worked in lots of places, including Africa and Australia.
His personal aircraft is a 1963 Cessna 205 with a special distinction.
It was the only black aircraft on the field at the Guntersville Airport Saturday morning.
“You don’t see many black airplanes,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, the Guntersville Airport Board chairman who enjoyed having breakfast with Conroy and Hefferon, along with Airport Board member Grover Williams.
“The original paint was lime green,” said Conroy. He bought the plane from a Georgia Bulldogs fan who had it repainted black with a thin red line.
Conroy and Hefferon’s home airport has a 4,500 foot runway. Even though he flies all the time as a Southwest pilot, Hefferon – who bears a striking resemblance to a younger Clint Eastwood – said the real joy of flying returns to him when he flies his own small aircraft.
He’d been to Guntersville before for the pancake breakfast and Conroy said it was a good one.
The men flew in separately, each man bringing his own plane.