Thanatos Report This Comment
Date: September 26, 2008 03:42PM
Yves Rossy leapt from a plane and into the record books on Friday, crossing the
channel on a homemade jet-propelled wing.
Rossy jumped from the plane about 8,200 feet over Calais, France, blasting
across the narrow body of water and deploying his parachute over the South
Foreland lighthouse, delighting onlookers who dotted Dover's famous white
cliffs, cheering and waving as Rossy came into view.
Backed by a gentle breeze, Rossy crossed the Channel in 13 minutes, averaging
125 miles per hour. In a final flourish, he did a figure eight as he came over
England, although the wind blew him away from his planned landing spot next to
"It was perfect. Blue sky, sunny, no clouds, perfect conditions," the
Swiss pilot said after touching down in an adjacent field. He said he wanted to
show, "it is possible to fly, a little bit, like a bird."
Onlookers scooped up their children, picnics and dogs to race to the landing
site as Rossy posed for photographs. His ground crew doused him with champagne,
and the pilot swigged greedily from the bottle as he waved to the band of
onlookers gathered to cheer him and take pictures with cell phone cameras.
A small airplane zipped across the sky with a banner that read: "Well done
Rossy said he had watched passenger ferries cutting a path between the Britain
and France as he tore through the air.
"I was happy to be faster than them," he said. The 49 year old said
the Channel crossing was the realization of a dream. "That's the most
gratifying thing you can do," he said.
Rossy's trip — twice delayed due to bad weather — was meant to trace the
route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to cross the narrow body
of water in an airplane 99 years ago.
The South Foreland Lighthouse was the site of Guglielmo Marconi's experiments
with radio telegraphy in 1898. Bleriot used the white building as a target
during his pioneering flight, the building's manager, Simon Ovenden, said.
The Channel has attracted a range of adventurers and stuntmen over the years,
most drawn to the 21-mile wide neck of water between Dover and Calais.
Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American doctor John Jeffries were the first
to fly from Britain to mainland Europe in a hot air balloon in 1785.
Capt. Matthew Webb braved stinging jellyfish and strong currents to be the first
to swim across the Channel in 1875. Other stunts followed: The first hovercraft
crossing in 1959, the first human-powered air crossing in 1979.
Geoff Clark, a 54-year-old onlooker from Chatham, in southern England, called
Rossy's flight "a remarkable achievement."
"We saw the climax of his attempt as he came down to earth with his
parachute. It's been an exciting afternoon," Clark said.
Rossy's wing was made from carbon composite. It weighs about 121 pounds when
loaded with fuel and carried four kerosene-burning jet turbines. The contraption
has no steering devices. Rossy, a commercial airline pilot by training, wiggled
his body back and forth to control the wing's movements.
He wore a heat-resistant suit similar to that worn by firefighters and racing
drivers to protect him from the heat of the turbines. The cooling effect of the
wind and high altitude also prevented him from getting too warm.
Mark Dale, the senior technical officer for the British Hang Gliding and
Paragliding Association, described Rossy's flight as a "fabulous
Rossy, who spent months preparing for the cross-Channel flight, has said he
wants to fly across the Grand Canyon in Arizona next.
As for the 13 lonely minutes he spent aloft between England and France, he
assured reporters he felt no fear.
"I was under tension. But fear? The day I fear, I don't go," Rossy