Holy Jetpacks, Fusion Man! Swiss Man Flies With Own Wings
It's a bird, it's a plane ... it's a crazy Swiss guy with four jet engines strapped to his back flying above the Alps! A dedicated inventor has set a new record for powered personal flight.
The name he chose sounds like the title of a summer blockbuster: Fusion Man. But Swiss inventor Yves Rossy is no mutant superhero or Hollywood creation. On Wednesday, he jumped out of a plane above the Swiss town of Bex and took flight using a jetpack he created.
The five-minute flight was the first public demonstration of Rossy's one-of-a-kind device, which took him five years to create.
The inventor brings years of more conventional experience to his death-defying feats. He is a former Swiss military pilot and has been a co-pilot and captain for Switzerland's two national airlines, Swissair and Swiss.
Dressed in a white flight suit, wearing a white helmet and strapped to his black device, Rossy was dropped from an airplane 2,348 meters above the Earth. He first unfolded the rigid, eight-foot wings strapped to his back, then fired up four tiny jet engines originally intended to power model aircraft.
A helicopter flew nearby to document his five minutes of glory, and an airplane followed to measure his speed. Rossy reached speeds of 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour).
"The flight was excellent," Rossy told reporters gathered at the airfield where he touched down. Rossy wears a heavy, heat-resistant flying suit, similar to those worn by race car drivers and firefighters, to protect himself from the jet engines' exhaust.
Should anything go wrong, Rossy has a parachute to rely on. "I've had many 'whoops' moments," he said Wednesday. "My safety is altitude."
Rossy has more flights planned for the future -- including a 22-mile crossing of the English Channel that may be broadcast live on television. He would also like to fly through the Grand Canyon some day.
Jetpack hopefuls, take heart: Rossy plans to market his invention to the public in the future. It won't come cheap. Rossy and his sponsors say they've poured almost 200,000 ($300,000) into the project so far.