A Swiss adventurer flew into the history books on Friday by crossing from France to Britain on only a jet-powered wing, describing afterwards how he felt “like a bird” over the English Channel.
Yves Rossy (49) touched down in a field on top of the white cliffs of Dover after completing the 35km journey over one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
“I have proved it is possible to fly like a bird,” he said with a big grin, adding: “My aim [was] to realise the dream. You have an idea in your head, and to actually achieve it is the most gratifying thing you can do.”
Asked how he felt, he joked: “It’s a mixture of ecstasy and trying to stay concentrated — because I was thinking, the water is pretty cold down there.”
With the carbon wing strapped to his back, Rossy had leapt out of a small plane at an altitude of 2 500m over the French coast before jetting off at speeds of more than 200km/h.
Against a backdrop of picture-perfect blue skies, he ended his adventure about ten minutes later by cutting his engines and deploying a green and blue parachute at an altitude of about 1 500m over the English coast.
After landing in a ploughed field, the daredevil — a pilot with Swiss International Air Lines — was visibly thrilled as he was helped out of the wing structure into which he had been strapped for the flight.
“It was great. I feel a lot more calm now than before the flight. It was perfect conditions,” he said, after being mobbed by journalists who rushed from the planned landing site nearby to pepper him with questions.
Rossy had never flown for longer than ten minutes and had to calibrate his equipment and weight to perfection since even the addition of a few hundred grams would have affected his flying ability.
His trip was broadcast live by two light aircraft and two helicopters, which flew alongside him across the channel.
Although it appeared perfect, in fact Rossy did not arrive at the intended landing site — apparently after he tricked his support staff.
“He didn’t land where he was supposed to because at the last minute he played a trick on me,” said Jean-Marc Colomb, pilot of the plane that dropped Rossy over the French coast and then tailed him across the Channel.
“He put on his booster engines to shake me off and I couldn’t follow him, and then he did a nice spiral as he came to earth and the plane can’t follow that.”
Rossy, who calls himself FusionMan, was originally scheduled to make the flight on Wednesday, but postponed twice due to bad weather.
In 2004, he became the first man to fly with jet-powered wings. — AFP