Yves Rossy (a.k.a. Birdman and FusionMan) last Wednesday covered 21 miles in 10 minutes with a 120-pound, eight-foot carbon-fiber wing strapped to his back, powered by four micro-turbine jet engines. The distance flown matches that of Calais, France, to Dover, U.K. Rossy intends to fly across the English Channel Sept. 24 (weather permitting) following Louis Bleriot’s 1909 route between those cities. For the test flight, Rossy exited a jump aircraft, unfolded his rigid wing and fired up four micro-turbines attached to its bottom side. He flew from about 7,500 feet above Bex Switzerland to Villeneuve, turned around and flew and back, reaching about 180 mph in clear skies and landing after deploying two parachutes — one at 5,000 feet and the second at 4,000 feet. He landed with 2 litres of fuel left. Rossy controls the aircraft by shifting his weight or simply turning his head and shoulders. He wears a heat-resistant suit to protect his legs from exhaust and has evolved his flight envelope to include rolls. Rossy, 48 (49 next week), has logged 1000 hours in the Mirage III and later flew for Swissair. He also has over 1000 parachute jumps to his credit.
Rossy’s current project is sponsored by Hublot, the Swiss Watch maker, and his English Channel flight is to be broadcast exclusively by the National Geographic Channel and streamed live online at NatGeoTV.com.