OSHKOSH - The Swiss pilot known as the "Jetman" has made his U.S. public debut - and he picked EAA AirVenture to do it.
Yves Rossy has spent his life, basically, turning himself into a plane. The 53-year-old former fighter pilot is so far the only person to fly using a jet-propelled wing.
It's as close as a human has come to flying like a bird. Rossy glided up and down, thousands of feet above the AirVenture crowd.
"I hope you had as much fun as I had, because it's completely unreal to fly like that through the clouds," said Rossy afterward.
And it was just as unreal for those watching from the ground.
"Because I fly in airplanes, I don't make myself one. That's insane, dude!" exclaimed pilot Greg Newlun, who is from Lakeland, Fla.
Rossy was a pilot in the Swiss Air Force and now flies commercial. But 18 years ago, after years of parachuting, he started working on what seemed like an impossible dream: flying independent of a plane.
"That's really the goal: nothing between me and air," explained Rossy.
Now that dream is the 53-year-old's reality. He starts by jumping from a helicopter. Then he flies for several minutes using a carbon-fiber wing. The wing has two jet engines, but is controlled by Rossy's body and intuition.
"These are the steering controls, the hydraulics, the cockpit," explained Rossy, pointing to his arms and head.
And while the Jetman is not technically a bird, he is a plane, sanctioned by the FAA. It took a lot of work for EAA to bring him to Oshkosh, because he doesn't fit the FAA's standard criteria.
"Eventually they came up with seven pages of single-spaced copy that they had to check off on, but they said 'okay' and we're happy he's flying here this week," explained Dick Knapinski, senior communiations advisor for EAA.
And Rossy is just as happy to be here for his first, public flights in the U.S.
"The Super Bowl of aviation, as a professional aviator, for me, it was a great, great moment," said Rossy, a moment he hopes can prove to other's the sky's not the limit, saying, "try it! You have nothing to lose, go ahead, try to reach your dream!"
Rossy is scheduled to perform his flight at the afternoon air shows at AirVenture on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
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