Jetman flying to New Zealand

By Abby Gillies

Intrepid flyer 'Jetman' is bringing his famous skills to New Zealand so audiences can experience through him what it's like to "fly as free as a bird".

Switzerland's Yves Rossy will travel here for the first time in January for Auckland's Air Show, where he is looking forward to trying his free-fall stunts.

"I'm looking forward to it. It's really fascinating to go to the other end of the world," he said.

Known as the only man to fly with a jet-propelled wing, according to his website, the 53-year-old is dropped at 1500 feet from a plane before reaching speeds of up to 300km/h harnessed to his wing made of carbon fibre with four engines.

He steers using his body movements, "just the same as birds".

Kiwis will be able to 'live' the sensation, thanks to new technology in which mini cameras are attached to the wing and the video transmitted to audiences.

Flying on a jet-powered wing has been a 16-year dream, said the Swiss pilot, who has a background in the Air Force.

At age 30 he discovered free diving from planes and decided he wanted to develop technology to extend the feeling.

The technology he uses is after refining more than 15 prototypes to improve the wing's performance, so "all he has is an altimeter for safety, and a tiny throttle control in his hand''.

If anything goes wrong mid-air, he can drop the wing out, and he carries two parachutes - one for the wing, so it won't get damaged or damage anyone if it falls, and a second one for himself.

While he concedes his passion has caused the odd injury over the years, his aviation background and penchant for safety are the reason he's avoided anything more serious, he said.

In 2008 he took his first official flight over the Swiss Alps. Since then he has powered across the English Channel and flown over the Alps and the Grand Canyon.

"It's like in a dream. I try to share this experience because it's absolutely fantastic this feeling of freedom."

Because of weight restrictions Mr Rossy can only carry enough fuel to fly for a maximum of 13 minutes, but hopes to develop his technology to increase his flight time.

He is instructing an apprentice jet-propeller flight so the pair and fly in formation, and plans to continue to improve his technology including hopefully being able to take off from the ground.

- APNZ

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