November 29, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Yves Rossy’s press notices are fond of saying that for decades, the stunt pilot known as Jetman wanted to fly like a bird.
By now it’s probably safe to say that he has turned the tables.
Proving the aviation adage that the greatest feats of aeronautical daring succeed best when pilot and machine seem as one, on Sept. 26 Rossy, 52, strapped on a wing—fortified with four jet engines—and made a now-familiar diving exit from a helicopter before forming up with two jets for some aerobatic flying above some seriously altitudinous European mountains.
“Adjusting his trajectory and altitude by his body movements alone, he then performed aerobatic figures above the Swiss Alps in the company of two L-39C Albatros planes from the Breitling Jet Team, the world’s largest professional civilian aerobatics team performing on jets,” said a November news release from Jetman’s website.
It also asserted, “Another top-flight feat makes aviation history.”
Challenge that claim if you must. But doing so would seem more foolish than daring when you consider that Rossy’s recent routines have included “crossing the (English) Channel, flying alongside two Boeing Stearman biplanes carrying the Breitling Wingwalkers, looping the loop around a hot-air balloon and hurtling across the sky over the Grand Canyon.” (That last one, which kept everyone in more suspense than a student pilot waiting for a chance to make a VFR cross-country, clearly wasn’t within the FAA’s comfort zone as it pondered a way to categorize Rossy’s jetpack-powered “mancraft” while deciding whether to grant a waiver.)
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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