He had nothing above him but four tanks of kerosene and nothing below him but 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.
Rossy jumped from the plane about 8,200 feet over Calais, France, blasting across the narrow body of water and deploying his parachute over the South Foreland lighthouse, delighting onlookers who dotted Dover's famous white cliffs and cheered and waved as Rossy came into view.
Backed by a gentle breeze, Rossy crossed the Channel 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.”
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Onlookers scooped up their children, picnics and dogs to race to the landing site as Rossy, 49, posed for photos. His ground crew doused him with champagne, and the pilot swigged greedily as he waved to onlookers gathered to cheer him and take pictures with cell phone cameras.
A small airplane zipped across the sky with a banner that read: “Well done Jet Man.”
Rossy's trip – twice delayed due to 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.