A Swiss pilot strapped on a jet-powered wing and leaped from a plane Wednesday for the first public demonstration of the homemade device, turning figure-eights and soaring high above the Alps.
Yves Rossy’s performance capped five years of training and many more years of dreaming.
“This flight was absolutely excellent,” the former fighter pilot and extreme-sports enthusiast said after touching down on an airfield near the eastern shore of Lake Geneva.
Rossy, 48, had stepped out of a Swiss-built Pilatus Porter aircraft at 7,500 feet and unfolded the rigid 8-foot wing strapped to his back before jumping.
Passing from free fall to a gentle glide, Rossy, clad in a heat-resistant suit, triggered four jet turbines and accelerated to 186 mph, about 65 mph faster than a falling sky-diver.
The crowd below gasped and cheered.
So far, Rossy and his sponsors, including the Swiss watch company Hublot, have poured more than $285,000 into building the device.
Steering with his body, Rossy dived, turned and rose again, performing what appeared to be effortless loops.
After one last wave to the crowd, he executed a perfect 360-degree roll.
Later he said, “That was to impress the girls.”