"Jet Man" Crosses English Channel Like a Human Rocket

Kate Ravilious in York, United Kingdom
for National Geographic News
September 26, 2008

Yves Rossy, aka Jet Man, zoomed into the record books Friday, flying across the English Channel strapped to a single jet-powered wing, with only a helmet and flight suit for protection.

The 22-mile (35-kilometer) France-to-England journey took 13 minutes.

Bad weather had twice postponed the event this week. But Friday—with clear blue skies and a nice tailwind—turned out to be an ideal flight day for the Swiss airline pilot.

Around 2 p.m., local time, Rossy leaped from a plane abound 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above a beach near Calais. Within seconds he had opened his wing, fired up his four miniature jet turbines, and pointed his nose toward Britain.

Cruising at speeds of over 125 miles (200 kilometers) an hour, Rossy steered by just moving his head and back.

After a smooth crossing—followed by a few celebratory loops—Rossy opened his parachute system and floated down to a green field not far from the White Cliffs of Dover (see map).

"With that crossing I showed it is possible to fly a little bit like a bird. I am full of hope there will be many in the near future," Rossy said after landing, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper.

The full story of the flight will be broadcast Friday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the U.S. National Geographic Channel. (The Channel is partly owned by the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)

Failure No Option

Failure was not an option, as the Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, and Rossy's jet wing is not designed for landing on water.

Speaking earlier this week, NASA aeronautical engineer Tom Benson said, "He will be wearing a fireproof flight suit [and] 120 pounds [54 kilograms] of wings, fuel, engines, and parachutes, so staying afloat for any length of time could be difficult."

Markus Zipperer, an engineer with the German company JetCat, which helped build the machine, said, "The biggest challenge for him is to get into a stable flying configuration once he has left the plane."

Continued on Next Page >>


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