Feeds

Swiss birdman in Alpine backpack-jetplane stunt flight

'I'm not married any more,' says fanatical air-head

The next step in data security

Famous backpack-jetplane pilot Yves Rossy has given his most daring public performance yet, leaping from an ordinary aeroplane to perform a variety of stunts above the Swiss Alps. He says he will fly his four-engined strapon flying wing across the English Channel later this year.

Yves Rossy soars to glory

Only the most committed airheads need apply.

Credit: Stephanie Thomet

The Swiss birdman described his flight yesterday as "absolutely excellent", and his sponsors Hublot Watches (who prefer that he be called "FusionMan") issued a statement saying:

The spectacle was impressive. Yves Rossy leapt from the plane with his wing folded, then deployed his craft and began the flight proper. He made several “figure of eights” above spectators aware of being present at an exceptional event ...

Yves Rossy represents the intensely close relationship between the development of a technology, a body honed to perfection which he uses to steer his craft, and a mind attuned to split-second coordination of flight parameters ... he flies like a bird ... The name FusionMan reflects this synergy of diverse skills that has made a dream come true.

Rossy has been working on his backpack plane equipment for years, following a madcap 1990s career of aerial stunts involving sky-surfing, fountain-surfing*, balloons, ordinary planes, parachutes and lord knows what else. In 2003, the former Swiss air force fighter jockey - currently an airline pilot in his day job - decided that his latest passion, gliding under an inflatable strapon wing, lacked a certain something - namely jet engines.

Many initial obstacles were overcome. Inflatable wings were found to be too bendy for jets, and were replaced with folding, rigid carbon-fibre jobs spread by an electric motor. In 2004 this prototype was "partially destroyed" after Rossy went into an almost-fatal spin at an air show. The next year he was back, and made successful flights in a twin-jet job, but this too was wrecked after "uncontrollable oscillations" led to another prang and saw Rossy prematurely resorting to his parachute yet again. The two engines, of a type normally used in model planes, were apparently a bit lacking in poke anyway, so Rossy was happy enough to rebuild again.

Here's some YouTube vid of an earlier test flight:

(You need Flash and a friendly firewall to view it.)

In November 2006, he was back with four engines on his back and a new wing. This time he seemed to have cracked it, making a successful five-and-a-half minute flight. But there was yet another pileup early last year, and once again the machine had to be rebuilt.

Now with sponsorship from Swiss watch company Hublot, Rossy is back once again with a new and even better wing - quadruple engines, much quicker gas-piston opening, almost 200lb of thrust allowing a climb rate of 1000'/min and fuel for ten minutes of powered flight at 185 mph. That should, as the intrepid birdman says, be enough to get him across the Channel and a bit to spare. It's a lot better than present-day vertical-takeoff jetpacks, which typically struggle to beat a minute's endurance.

Rossy's backpack jetwings won't be hitting the shops soon, though. The only controls or instruments are a throttle and an audible altimeter - the wing is steered using the body, and given his long history of crackups this plainly isn't easy even for Rossy. A flameproof suit is necessary to avoid leg burns from the jet exhaust, too. The only way of launching is to jump from a (great) height. Landing is by folding the wings and parachuting down - yet more skills to be mastered. (The latest wing has its own landing chute which deploys if it has to be jettisoned, which should ease the future development path somewhat).

The main application would seem to be stunts like yesterday's - or perhaps for certain highly unusual/barmy special-forces missions. Spelco, a military parachute company in Germany, is working on its "Gryphon" backpack deltaplane - an easier to operate, low-radar-signature, long-ranging version of Rossy's concept.

The cost of all this?

$285,000 so far, according to AP. And there may be other hidden prices to be paid. "I'm not married any more," says the 47-year-old Rossy, in a Hublot promo video. ®

*Apparently.

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.