September 26, 2008 / 4:04 PM / 11 years ago

"Fusion Man" makes historic Channel flight

LONDON (Reuters) - Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy flew from England to France Friday propelled by a jetpack strapped to his back — the first person to cross the English Channel in such a way.

Swiss airline pilot Yves Rossy gestures after becoming the first person to cross the English channel with a jetpack strapped to his back, in Dover southern England September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

Rossy, a pilot who normally flies an Airbus airliner, crossed the 22 miles between Calais and Dover at speeds of up to 120 mph in 13 minutes, his spokesman said.

When the white cliffs of Dover came into view, he opened a blue and yellow parachute and drifted down in light winds to land in a British field where he was mobbed by well-wishers.

“Everything was perfect,” he said afterwards. “I showed that it is possible to fly a little bit like a bird.”

Rossy traced the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, who became the first person to fly across the Channel in an aircraft in 1909.

The Swiss pilot was propelled by four kerosene-burning jet turbines attached to a wing on his back. He ignited the jets inside a plane before jumping out more than 8,000 feet above ground.

After a period of free fall he opened the wing and soared across the water. With no steering controls, the only way to change direction was like a bird, moving his head and back.

The 49-year-old Rossy, who calls himself “Fusion Man,” told the BBC the most tense moment was when he jumped from the aircraft “because I did have many problems during exits before.”

But this time he made a perfect exit and quickly set the correct course by aiming for the cliffs of Dover.

Rossy usually flies a Swiss International A320 Airbus between Zurich and Heathrow and he develop the jet-propelled device himself.

The wing, which spans eight feet, is made of lightweight carbon composite and weighs about 55 kg (120 lb) including fuel.

He postponed the flight twice this week due to poor weather and wore a flameproof suit to help him withstand the jet exhaust around his legs.

His future plans included flying over the Grand Canyon, taking off from a standing position on the ground and performing acrobatics.

Editing by Angus MacSwan

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