Monday, September 29, 2008
Winged Man Does the Channel
DOVER, England - A Swiss daredevil crossed the English Channel strapped to a homemade jet-propelled wing Friday, parachuting into a field near the white cliffs of Dover after a 10-minute solo flight.
Yves Rossy leapt from a plane at more than 8,800 feet, fired up his jets and made the 22-mile trip from Calais in France. Rossy passed over a thin strip of land in front of South Foreland lighthouse, looped over onlookers and opened his parachute, his wings still strapped to his back.
"It was perfect. Blue sky, sunny, no clouds, perfect conditions," he said. "We prepared everything and it was great."
The trip across the Channel is meant to trace the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to cross in an airplane 99 years ago.
The 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.
Several hundred spectators rushed to greet the pilot, trying to take photographs with cameras and cell phones.
"It's 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," said Geoff Clark, a 54-year-old onlooker from Chatham, in Kent.
The carbon composite-wing weighs about 121 pounds when loaded with fuel, and carried four kerosene-burning jet turbines that kept him aloft. The wing had no steering devices — Rossy moved his body to control its 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 hot.
Mark Dale, the senior technical officer for the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, described Rossy's flight as a "fabulous stunt."