Thursday, May 15, 2008


Armed with slightly more than wax and a few feathers, Yves Rossy has taken to the skies to show Icarus how it should be done. Swooping and diving above the mountainous town of Bex in western Switzerland, the self-styled "Rocket Man" flew at 8,200ft for more than five minutes thanks to an 8ft jet-powered wing strapped to his back. It has always been Mr Rossy's ambition to fly freely, but it has taken four years of working on his jet design for that dream to become reality. To achieve his bird-like status, the former Swiss fighter pilot was taken up in a light aircraft, just like a normal skydiver. On jumping from the plane he appeared to plummet towards earth, before his fall turned to a glide and he ignited the four small jet engines attached to the carbon wing. Once under power and using a lever to control the fuel, he had the freedom to soar where he chose. Clearly enjoying his first public flight, at speeds of up to 186mph, Mr Rossy tipped his wings, flipped onto his back then levelled out again, performing a 360-degree roll. Unlike Icaraus, the Greek mythological figure who flew too close to the sun and did not live to tell the tale, the 48-year-old landed safely using a parachute. "This flight was excellent," he said afterwards. "It's like a second skin. If I turn to the left, I fly left. If I nudge to the right, I go right." Now he is planning an even greater challenge – to fly across the Channel.