Photos by Alain Ernoult. Copyright Â©2011 Jetman. All rights reserved.
It takes guts to strap a jet-powered wing to your back, jump out of an aircraft, and fly. But it also takes training. Yves Rossy, known as Jetman, has dedicated more than a decade of his life to perfecting the wing. He’s tried many stunts, including successfully crossing the English Channel and performing a loop. He had planned to overfly the Grand Canyon on May 6, but according to press reports, he has canceled the flight because of a lack of time to train.
The decision to cancel the flight, for now, comes after a marathon process to gain permission to make the flight. Rossy didn't receive FAA approval until the morning of the planned flight.
The 51-year-old has an extensive background in more traditional types of flying, including serving as a military pilot and later as a captain with Swiss International Air Lines. Rossy flew the Mirage III supersonic fighter for 17 years during his military career.
“His dream was however to try to fly in the most natural way possible, by removing the need for the complicated enclosure an aircraft is,” according to the Jetman website. “He was therefore drawn to the world of free fall, and experimented by trial and error all ways that could allow him to stay longer in the air and control his trajectory, to turn a fall into a flight: sky surf, wingsuit. Still not satisfied, he developed his first real wing, made of a rigid harness and inflatable wing panels, that he was to strap to his back to exceed the performance of all other attempts at ‘falling forward’ that existed at the time.”
During his quest for the perfect flight, he developed 15 wings within the same number of years. His wing is powered by four JetCat P200 engines with 22 kilograms of thrust each, and he controls the craft’s direction with his body. Flight time ranges from six to 13 minutes, and while his average speed is 124 mph, he can reach 186 mph in a descent, according to performance figures provided by Rossy’s media firm. Rossy has flown formation with the wing and two Boeing Stearmans that are part of the Breitling Wingwalkers team.
While he can’t take off from or land on the ground yet, that is in the works. Currently, he jumps from another aircraft, whether a hot air balloon, helicopter, or airplane, and then parachutes once he’s finished flying.