- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

DOVER, England | He had nothing above him but four tanks of kerosene and nothing below him but the cold waters of the English Channel. But Yves Rossy leapt from a plane and into the record books Friday, crossing the channel on a homemade jet-propelled wing.

Mr. Rossy jumped from the plane about 8,200 feet over Calais, France. He blasted across the narrow body of water and deployed his parachute over the South Foreland lighthouse, delighting onlookers who dotted Dover’s famous white cliffs. They cheered and waved as Mr. Rossy came into view.

Backed by a gentle breeze, Mr. Rossy crossed the 21 miles in 13 minutes, averaging 125 mph. In a final flourish, he did a figure eight as he came over England, although the wind blew him away from his planned landing spot next to the lighthouse.

“It was perfect. Blue sky, sunny, no clouds, perfect conditions,” the Swiss pilot said after touching down in an adjacent field. He said he wanted to show, “it is possible to fly, a little bit, like a bird.”

Onlookers scooped up their children, picnics and dogs to race to the landing site as Mr. Rossy, 49, posed for photographs. A small airplane zipped across the sky with a banner that read: “Well done Jet Man.”

Mr. Rossy’s trip - twice delayed because of bad weather - was meant to trace the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to cross the narrow body of water in an airplane 99 years ago.

Mr. Rossy’s wing was made from carbon composite. It weighs about 121 pounds when loaded with fuel and carried four kerosene-burning jet turbines. The contraption has no steering devices. Mr. Rossy, a commercial airline pilot by training, wiggled his body back and forth to control the wing’s movements.

He wore a heat-resistant suit similar to that worn by firefighters and racing drivers to protect him from the heat of the turbines. The cooling effect of the wind and high altitude also prevented him from getting too warm.

Mr. Rossy, who spent months preparing for the cross-channel flight, has said he wants to fly across the Grand Canyon in Arizona next.


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