Friday, September 26, 2008

He made it!

Readers may remember my post earlier this month about Yves Rossy's planned attempt to fly across the English Channel suspended beneath a human-size wing.

Well, he made it!

He came. He soared. He conquered.

Birdman Yves Rossy powered into the record books yesterday with a remarkable cross-Channel flight - and a grin almost as big as his wingspan.

The Swiss adventurer stood on the White Cliffs of Dover after flying from France with a jet-propelled wing on his back and declared: 'It's like a dream come true.'

He parachuted into an English field 22 miles from Calais 13 minutes after takeoff. The 49-year-old aviator flew at up to 125mph after jumping from a plane 8,200ft above France.

Four jet engines on the single, 8ft wing allowed him to prove what he has always believed - that with a little help from technology, there's no reason why man shouldn't fly like a bird.

The route he chose retraced that plotted by cross-Channel pioneer Louis Bleriot when he flew the Channel in 1909. Back then, Monsieur Bleriot used a conventional looking aircraft and took 37 minutes.

Mr Rossy had twice postponed the attempt this week because of the weather. Yesterday Dover was bathed in brilliant sunshine and virtually cloudless skies. Inside the plane that took him up, he exchanged 'high fives' with his crew before leaping free. His wing tips unfolded and the jets fired up.

Apparently it wasn't too comfortable up there especially if, like Mr Rossy, you've got a bit of a bad back. The wing has limited mechanics and none of the technology boasted by his normal transport - as a pilot flying Swiss airliners.

He had a fuel lever to control the flow and an altimeter in his helmet to give various beeps at various heights. There were no brakes, and no steering wheel or joystick. Gentle manoeuvres of his head and arms were used to steer.

The only fuselage was his body, belly down towards the earth. He casually told us he used to be 'a bit of a daredevil' but doesn't now take unnecessary risks. That will be comfort indeed to the passengers he'll be piloting on Monday when he goes back to his regular job.

He told waiting reporters: 'It felt great, really great. I only have one word to all the people who helped me - thanks.'

Inside the plane Rossy had exchanged 'high fives' with his crew before he balanced himself on a step thousands of feet above ground with his compressed wing strapped to his back.

Final checks were then carried out on his wing before his jets were fired up and he leapt from the aircraft and across the Channel.

Minutes later he came into view for the scores of watchers gathered on top of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Rossy completed a few loops in the sky beyond the landing site before making his descent and deploying his parachute and landing next to the South Foreland lighthouse.

After landing with a bump, he waved and smiled as ambulance crews stood by.

The daredevil challenge by Rossy has led to him being compared to Superman and Buzz Lightyear, the computer-generated character from the animated film Toy Story.

Congratulations, M. Rossy! That's another first for the aviation history books.


1 comment:

phlegmfatale said...

wow. I wouldn't want to fly a wing my ownself, but it's pretty cool that he did, bad back notwithstanding.