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Culture

Swiss Birdman Flies Across English Channel

Yves Rossy soared across the English Channel and into the history books with his 35-kilometer solo flight to Dover. The successful trip came after two previous attempts were postponed this week due to bad weather.

Yves Rossy flying with his homemade jet-propelled wing.

Rossy came through with flying colors

Rossy touched down safely on Friday in a field on the white cliffs of Dover after completing the journey from France to Britain.

His head appeared still to be very much in the clouds. "I have proved it is possible to fly like a bird," he said with a big grin. "My aim was to realize the dream. You have an idea in your head, and to actually achieve it is the most gratifying thing you can do," he added.

“I would like to say thank you to all the people who helped me,” he told journalists as he staggered across the field. “I am the only one who has flown across the channel this way, but so many people helped me do it.”

The 49-year-old had leaped out of a small plane at an altitude of 2,500 meters over the coast of France with just the carbon jet-powered wing strapped to his back.

Winging it

Penguins at a zoo in Bremerhaven

These guys may be grounded, but Rossy didn't let bad weather clip his wing for long

Reaching speeds of over 200 kilometers per hour, the adventurer and pilot with Swiss International Air Lines only needed about ten minutes to complete the flight. Upon reaching the English coast, he cut his engines and deployed a parachute at an altitude of about 1,500 meters. Rossy’s flight was smooth on the whole, with only occasional air turbulence.

His fuel-laden wing weighed about 55 kilograms in total and included four simple, kerosene-burning jet turbines that kept him airborne. Created from a lightweight carbon composite, the wing has no steering devices, and so Rossy had to use his head and back to control the wing's movement.

“I hope that many people will have the opportunity to fly like this,” he said.

French flyer Louis Bleriot, left, stands in front of his plane after landing near Dover on July 25, 1909

Rossy follows in French flyer Louis Bleriot's footsteps

In 2004, Rossy became the first person to fly with jet-powered wings. In soaring successfully on Friday, he follows in the footsteps of French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot, who became the first person to fly across the Channel in a plane in 1909.

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