Born in 1959, Yves "Jetman" Rossy always wanted to be a pilot. After accomplishing that, Rossy went above and beyond by becoming the first man in the world to sustain human flight with little more than a jet-powered wing attached to his back. Rossy got his start as a fighter pilot flying the Mirage III supersonic plane. He flew for over 17 years in the Swiss Air Force, while at the same time taking many opportunities to fly historic planes. After the Air Force, he became a pilot for Swiss Air flying 747s which gave him the means to reach his next destination.

As an engineer and thrill-seeker, Rossy sought a more pure way of flying--without a seat or hull, and by natural instinct. He began prototyping his idea of a propelled wing. The first wing was based on a model from the Ukraine. It was inflatable and could collapse to be moved easily. But over time, Rossy noticed a need for a solid wing, so he modified it, but kept the ability to fold.

The first wing he used was in 1992, but those wings could only glide. Rossy would jump out of a plane and glide down. During those times, he learned that flying a wing attached to your back isn't exactly the same as flying a fighter jet. The next step was to add some boost to the wing, for which he turned to German company JetCat for help.


It wasn't until 2003 that his jet wing first ignited its engines at altitude. A lot of testing and planning went into the event. After all, jumping out of a plane with jet-engines strapped to your back could result in certain doom if not for extreme thought and care. The kind of care that takes fifteen years and 15 wings to get right. But, the results are nothing short of unbelievable.

The latest wing design houses four JetCat P200 engines, that put out 22 kgs of thrust each. The fuel is typical jet fuel with a mix of kerosene and turbine oil for lubrication. Overall, with fuel, the wing weighs about 120 lbs, but with a 6.5 ft span, Rossy is able to fly it at average speeds of 125 mph. This amount of velocity can keep Rossy in air for about 6 to 13 minutes--enough time to travel almost 15 miles.


In air, Rossy is able to control his flight by steering with only the movement of his body. If he leans a bit right, the wing will follow him. It really puts that whole pure flying thing into perspective. The only instrument he has is the fuel lever. Once the wing runs out of fuel, he opens his parachute and comes back to ground. His wing also has a parachute and flotation, device should he need it.

Rossy's plans for the future of Jetman included optimizing the wing. He thinks there is still lots of potential. Increasing the range that the jets can move him is his main objective. But also, he wants to have a new parachute system that allows him to fly as low as 650 ft, perhaps allowing him to take off (relatively) safely from the ground.

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