Swiss 'JetMan' cancels Grand Canyon flight

7th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Swiss adventurer dubbed "JetMan" canceled an attempt Friday to make an acrobatic flight over the Grand Canyon, saying he had not been able to train enough for the exploit.

Yves Rossy also said his energy had been sapped by wrangling to obtain authorization for his winged jetpack from the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), who only approved it 30 minutes before the planned take-off.

"I was so focused on getting the authorization, I thought I would be able to fly anyway. And I ended up forgetting that I should put my energy into the flight and not on trying to get the authorization," he told AFP.

"I never had the opportunity to train seriously," said Rossy, whose previous exploits have included flying across the English Channel between France and Britain, and soaring over the Swiss Alps.

Rossy, 51, was to have been dropped from a helicopter high above the world-famous US landmark and make a series of loops, powered only by a winged jet-pack, before landing on the floor of the immense geological fissure.

The Hualapai, a Native American tribe which manages the area, had planned to dance and pray before Rossy's take-off.

But rather than being dropped from 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) above Guano Point, a spectacular outcrop on the western side of the Grand Canyon, he had to explain his decision to cancel to reporters.

"Flying here is very challenging," he said, adding it would have been dangerous to fly without enough training. "You do things when you know how to do them well."

"This marvelous place is the ideal place for me to present myself, but it's the most challenging place I could fly. Here, the margins are very tiny," he stressed.

"I'm a professional aviator. Do you know any professional aviator who gives an airshow without a training flight?" he asked reporters. "That's why we canceled," he added.

But his backers insisted he could try again soon. "He is currently assessing the opportunity to fly at Grand Canyon West in the near future," said a statement by his publicist at the end of the day.

In September 2008 Rossy, whose jet-pack can reach speeds of around 200 kilometers (124 miles) an hour, gained international attention when he became the first winged person to make a successful crossing of the Channel.

He covered the 35 kilometers (21 miles) in around 10 minutes, with his nearly 2.5-meter-wide rocket-powered wings strapped to his back.

Last November he performed a feat similar to Friday's planned flight in the skies above the Swiss canyon of Vaud.

A former Mirage III fighter pilot, Rossy -- who has been dubbed "RocketMan" and "FusionMan" -- flies using a science fiction-style rocket pack powered by four jet engines.

For his Swiss flying exploits he developed, in collaboration with the company RUAG, a smaller version of his jet-pack with wings clipped to two meters (six feet) wide.

The new model has "a better aerodynamic profile, with more stability," making it able to make acrobatic maneuvers possible, he said at the time.

While his Channel and Swiss flights were successful, Rossy failed in a November 2009 attempt to cross the Straits of Gibraltar between Africa and Europe. High winds and clouds forced him to ditch in the sea.

And despite Friday's cancelation Rossy refused to be downhearted, saying he would strive to constantly improve. "I am developing as a flying man, developing as an aviation pioneer," he said, speaking in French.

When he first flew he was "happy to be up in the air ... then I was happy to be flying so I did it. Then I was happy to fly horizontally, so I did it. Now I have to fly acrobatically."

© 2011 AFP

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