Swiss jetman ditches in sea as Africa-Europe flight fails
Atlanterra — Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy ditched in the sea Wednesday due to turbulence, foiling his bid to make aviation history by flying from Africa to Europe using a jet-powered wing attached to his back.
The former fighter pilot was plucked from the water by a helicopter carrying a team of paramedics that had been following him throughout the attempt and taken to a hospital for a check-up where he got a clean bill of health.
He said he decided to launch his parachute and abort his attempt to cross the Strait of Gibraltar — the first intercontinental flight using just a jetpack — after encountering turbulence in the clouds.
"The wing I had on my back is not easy to fly. There were bigger clouds than expected. It was turbulent, I faced instability in the clouds," the 50-year-old told a news conference after leaving hospital.
Rossy was about half-way through his planned 38-kilometre (23.6-mile) trip between Tangier in Morocco to Atlanterra in southern Spain when he parachuted into the ocean. The trip had been expected to last 13 minutes.
He began the voyage by leaping from the side of a plane from a height of about 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) while wearing a flame-retardant suit.
Rossy said all four jet engines which power the carbon-fired wing, which is two metres across and weighs 60 kilos (130 pounds), were activated. The wing was designed by Rossy and it is steered by the pilot’s body.
"It was at no moment risky, it was always under control, just in the wrong way," he said.
"I would love to try another intercontinental crossing again but I don’t know when. This is the beginning of a new way of flying, individual air transport."
Rossy gave the thumbs up sign and walked off the helicopter unaided when it landed in Spain before giving his waiting partner a hug.
Known as "Jetman", he made headlines in September 2008 when he became the first person to cross the English Channel between France and Britain using a jet-powered wing.
He made the crossing from Calais to Dover — tracing the route of French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot, who became the first person to fly across the Channel in a plane 99 years earlier — in just 15 minutes, after reaching speeds of up to 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour.
His team said Wednesday’s Africa to Europe attempt was the logical follow-on from this.
Before taking off he said the main dangers were engine failure and losing control of the wing.
"But there’s always plan B. I can ditch the wing and open the parachute. If I land in the water, there are people to come and get me," he told AFP by telephone.
A camera crew followed Rossy and his bid to reach Europe from Africa was broadcast live over the Internet and by television stations around the world.