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Swiss jetwing backpack-birdman flies the Grand Canyon

Strap-on thrust equipment conquers mighty cleft

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Vid Swiss aerial daredevil Yves Rossy, aka "Jetman" has completed his latest feat successfully, leaping from a helicopter to hurtle across the Grand Canyon using his unique strap-on, jet-powered personal aeroplane before descending to land by parachute.

Rossy's previous feats have included a flight across the English Channel and an unsuccessful bid to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. This latest stunt was seen as more dangerous, as Rossy might have had to land by parachute on some inhospitable terrain in the event of a mishap.

Problems with the unique backpack aeroplane – latest in a long line gradually refined by Rossy and his team over the years – have been frequent, with the intrepid Swiss forced to jettison his wing and parachute down following crackups and losses of control on many previous occasions. At first these setbacks generally meant total destruction for the wing-pack, but in recent years it has been fitted with its own parachute, allowing a soft setdown.

The novel personal aircraft has no controls or instruments except a grip throttle and an audible altimeter: Rossy is the only man alive who can fly it, by shifting his head and body, and his past record indicates that even he has perhaps not yet achieved total mastery of his machine. He has to wear flameproof trousers in flight to avoid suffering burns from the jet exhaust.

The dashing birdman has previously discussed plans for a wing with enough power to make a vertical takeoff (and even perhaps a landing): the current machine on its own boasts a thrust-to-weight ratio of greater than one, but not once the weight of the pilot is added.

You can read more on Rossy's earlier madcap sky-stunt career in this previous report on his activities. ®

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