Jetman ascendant: How Yves Rossy learned to fly with four jet engines strapped to his back
The human plane just made a series of amazing flights around Mount Fuji in Japan.
Fri, Nov 08, 2013 at 11:51 AM
A lot of people have interesting hobbies. Yves Rossy puts most of them to shame. Rossy likes to strap a set of jet-powered wings to his back, jump out of airplanes and take to the air like the comic-book character "The Rocketeer." "Jetman," as Rossy is often called, has made dramatic flights over the English Channel, the Grand Canyon and Rio de Janiero. This week he added to his list by flying over Mount Fuji in Japan.
Rossy, 54, got his start in the air as a fighter pilot for the Swiss Air Force. He later flew professionally for two Swiss airlines, but that apparently wasn't enough for him. In 1993 he started thinking of ways to fly without the benefit of an airplane. He told Wired earlier this year that he first learned how to simply glide using an inflatable wing system. Then, after a lot of practice gliding, he built something closer to the jet planes he flew professionally. The system he designed contains rigid wings made of a carbon fiber, with Kevlar reinforcements and tiny jet engines. He told Wired that his first jet-powered flight was "totally crazy."
Since then he has refined his design many times, while making more and more daring flights. "Jetman" made his first record-breaking journey in 2008 with his flight over the English Channel, becoming the first person to make such a self-powered flight. "With that crossing I showed it is possible to fly a little bit like a bird," he told The Guardian at the time. "I am full of hope there will be many in the near future."
And, indeed, there have been many other such flights, the majority of which he has documented on his website or on his official YouTube channel. His wing system now contains four jet engines and weighs more than 120 pounds. It also includes a parachute to help him land – or in case anything goes wrong, as it did in 2009 when he fell into the Atlantic while trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.
Since then he has flown on several continents and even side-by-side with real planes. The Mount Fuji flight marks one more achievement in his quest to outdo himself and inspire others. "Flying here for me is a dream," Yves said in a media statement this week. "I am the lucky guy who gets to do this, but I hope I can motivate the next generation of forward thinkers to do something different... even if it seems impossible."
You can see Rossy in flight, learn about how he uses his body to steer, and see how he inspires and motivates others in this popular TED Talk from 2011:
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