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Stefan von Bergen: Well he turns by just putting his head on one or the other side. And sometimes he assists that with his hands, sometimes even with the leg. He's acting as a human fuselage, so to say. And that's quite unique.
Commentator: There's that 90 degree turn you're talking about, taking him out. He's out over the channel. There is Yves Rossy. There is no turning back now. He is over the English Channel and underway. Ladies and gentlemen, an historic flight has begun.
Yves, welcome. It is quite amazing. Those sequences were shot over the last three years in various moments of your activities. And there were many, many others. So it's possible to fly almost like a bird. What is it [like] to be up there?
Yves Rossy: It's fun. It's fun. (Laughter) I don't have feathers. But I feel like a bird sometimes. It's really an unreal feeling, because normally you have a big thing, a plane, around you. And when I strap just these little harnesses, this little wing, I really have the feeling of being a bird.
YR: It was about 20 years ago when I discovered free falling. When you go out of an airplane you are almost naked. You take a position like that. And especially when you take a tracking position, you have the feeling that you are flying. And that's the nearest thing to the dream. You have no machine around you. You are just in the element. It's very short and only in one direction. So the idea was, okay, keep that feeling of freedom, but change the vector and increase the time.
YR: That's really the goal, because if you put [in] steering, then you reinvent the airplane. And I wanted to keep this freedom of movement. And it's really like the kid playing the airplane. I want to go down like that. And up I climb, I turn. It's really pure flying. It's not steering, it's flight.
YR: Actually, I try to stay just fit. I don't do special physical training. Just, I try to keep my mobility through new activities. For example, last winter I began with kite surfing -- so new things. So you have to adapt. Because this is -- I'm quite an experienced manager of systems as a pilot, but this is really -- you need fluidity, you need to be agile and also to adapt really fast.
YR: Yeah, two-meter span. Ultrastable profile. Four little engines, 22 kilos thrust each, turbines working with kerosene. Harness, parachute. My only instruments are [an] altimeter and time. I know I have about eight minutes fuel. So just check before it's finished. (Laughter) And yeah, that's all. Two parachutes. That means, if I have a problem with the first one I pull, I still have the possibility to open the second one. And this is my life. That's the real important thing about safety. I did use that during these last 15 years about 20 times -- never with that type of wing, but at the beginning. I can release my wing when I am in a spin or unstable.
YR: But you feel great, but you have not the right altitude. So the next thing I saw was just blue. It was the sea. I have also an audible altimeter. So I was at my minimum altitude in that vector -- fast -- so I pulled that. And then I did open my chute.
BG: I see. Maybe come back here. This is risky stuff indeed. People have died trying to do this kind of thing. And you don't look like a crazy guy; you're a Swiss airline pilot, so you're rather a checklist kind of guy. I assume you have standards.
YR: No, that's really two worlds. Civil aviation is something that we know very well. We have a hundred years of experience. And you can adapt really precisely. With that, I have to adapt to something new. That means improvise. So it's really a play between these two approaches. Something that I know very well -- these principles, for example, we have two engines on an Airbus; with only one engine, you can fly it. So plan B, always a plan B. In a fighter, you have an ejection seat. That's my ejection seat. So I have the approach of a professional pilot with the respect of a pioneer in front of Mother Nature.
YR: I do a roll. And then I stabilize, and according to my altitude, I continue on two or three engines. It's sometimes possible -- it's quite complicated to explain -- but according to which regime I was, I can continue on two and try to get a nice place to land, and then I open my parachute.
BG: So the beginning of the flight is actually you jump off a plane or a helicopter, and you go on a dive and accelerate the engines, and then you basically take off mid-air somewhere. And then the landing, as we have seen, arriving on this side of the channel, is through a parachute. So just as a curiosity, where did you land when you flew over the Grand Canyon? Did you land on the rim, down at the bottom?
YR: Yes, with the final goal to take off, but with initial speed. Really, I go step by step. It seems a little bit crazy, but it's not. It's possible to start already now, it's just too dangerous. (Laughter) Thanks to the increasing technology, better technology, it will be safe. And I hope it will be for everybody.
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Strapped to a jet-powered wing, Yves Rossy is the Jetman -- flying free, his body as the rudder, above the Swiss Alps and the Grand Canyon. After a powerful short film shows how it works, Rossy takes the TEDGlobal stage to share the experience and thrill of flying.
With a jet-powered wing attached to his body, Yves Rossy expands the possibilities of human flight. Full bio »