If there was ever anyone with the moxie of a real-life Tony Stark, Yves Rossy, a.k.a. the “Jetman,” “Airman” or “Fusionman” – he’s been called all of them – is probably that guy. Yves, who is the only person ever to fly with jet-propelled wings, just soared over Mount Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, donning his homemade jetpack.
"Flying here for me is a dream," Yves said in a statement about his Mount Fuji flight. "I am the lucky guy who gets to do this, but I hope I can motivate the next generation of forward thinkers to do something different ... even if it seems impossible."
Over the course of one week starting in late-October, Yves made nine flights over Japan’s highest and most-revered mountain peak to celebrate Mount Fuji’s designation as world heritage site. AFP reported that in each flight, which lasted about 10 minutes, Yves dove from a helicopter, soared to nearly 12,000 feet, and parachuted back down to Earth.
“It’s a fantastic privilege to be a mosquito flying in front of that mountain,” he said. "It's really impressive. It's a perfect form, a huge mountain, a huge volcano, a presence that you can feel on the ground and also in the air."
Yves, a seasoned Swiss aviator, built his own jetman system using four jet engine modified from large model aircraft engines. The jetpack, which weighs about 130 pounds, slips on like a backpack. Its wings, made of carbon fiber, measure 7 feet, 9 inches from tip to tip. The aircraft has no rudder or steering flaps. Instead, the 54-year-old former fighter pilot uses his body to maneuver the jetpack like a “human fuselage.” Many of the laboratory tests of the jetpack are conducted with Yves strapped to the wings, because his body is an “integral part” of the jet-powered aircraft, according to a video from TED Talks.
When Yves lifts his head, the jetpack propels him upward into the sky. Arching his back allows him to gain altitude. Pushing his shoulders forward causes him to go into a dive. Yves’ rocket-propelled jetpack can shoot him through the sky at 190 mph and to heights of 12,000 feet. He can travel over 9 miles, according to The Telegraph.
Since 2004, the “Jetman” has flown over the English Channel, Swiss Alps and the Grand Canyon. Before he became the “Jetman,” Yves Rossy was a fighter pilot in the Swiss air force. Later, he flew Boeing 747s for Swissair, and then for Swiss International Airlines.
"It is such a contrast flying free with just a wing on my back, compared to being enclosed in a cockpit as an airline pilot," he said. "It's hard to describe the emotion and feeling of having an opportunity like this. It's spiritual, it is immense."
Rossy isn’t the only one whose sights are set on jetpack travel. The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand recently allowed the Martin Aircraft company to test jetpacks on its pilots. The company hopes to debut its jetpack by the end of the year.
"We've flown other types of prototypes before this, even with human pilots," Peter Coker, the CEO of Martin Aircraft, told World News in August. "But those were more proofs of concept. This particular machine is going to change aviation."
Here’s a video of Yves Rossy from a TED Talks conference in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2011.