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Monday, August 25, 2008

Rocket Man to fly over Channel

A Swiss airline pilot, known as Rocket Man, has moved closer to becoming the first man to fly freely use a jet-powered backpack to fly over the Channel.

By Jessica Salter
Rocket man Yves Rossy
Mr Rossy is due to cross the Channel on September 24Photo: EPA

Yves Rossy completed a 10-minute test flight with an 8ft jet-powered wing strapped to his back, flying more than 22 miles - the equivalent of travelling from Dover to Calais.

Mr Rossy, 48, first tested his wings in May after working on the contraption for four years. The self-styled "Rocket Man" flew at 8,200ft for more than five minutes after jumping out from a plane. The wings have four small engines attached to a carbon wing and can manipulated using a lever that controls the fuel.

Last week's test flight, which had been postponed several times because of engine problems, saw Rossy jump out of a small plane 7,500ft above the town of Bex, in Switzerland. He reached 180mph as he flew through clear skies to Villeneuve and back.

He wore a heat-resistant suit similar to those worn by racing drivers and deployed two parachutes at 5,000ft and 4,000ft to land at Bex airfield with two litres of fuel left.

He said: "Everything went well, it was awesome, it's my longest flight with this wing. If there are no technical problems it's okay for the English Channel."

Mr Rossy is due to cross the Channel on September 24 and the event will be broadcast live in 165 countries by the National Geographic Channel. He said: "My flight will be a tribute to all those who came before me, many of whom were killed."

In an earlier experimental flight three years ago he lost control and spiralled to just 1,600ft from the ground before managing to open his parachute.