The Jetman: From EAA Oshkosh to the Reno Air Races


Brave?  The Right Stuff? That doesn’t even start to cover it somedays.  Yves Rossy is an amazing pilot, if you want to call him that.  He clearly breaks into my list of the greatest pilots in the world; ranking with Bob Hoover, Steve Hinton, Robert Gibson, and Scooter Yoak.  He flies a carbon fiber jet wing sponsored by Breitling and did it at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this year and will be appearing at the Reno Air Races in September.

Yves Rossi is a 54 year old Swiss airline pilot.  He’s flown a Mirage fighter in the Swiss Air Force and he now flies a 120 pound, 6 1/2 foot wingspan, 4 jet engined carbon fiber wing with a total of 200 pounds of thrust.  He gets 8 gallons of fuel for 10 minutes of flight.  The controls are, well, Yves himself who moves his body and parts thereof to keep this high tech wing under control.  Instruments?  A timer for fuel burn, an altimeter and a small throttle control strapped on his right hand.  He can move through the sky at about 120 MPH, perform loops, and even fly in formation with other airplanes.  By the way, he invented the jet wing and built it too.   They used to tell me I thought outside the box, Yves is so far outside the box, he can’t even see the box from where he’s at.

Being an American, I can see problems now.  The FAA man at the local FSDO must have gotten heart burn when he walked in the door to license N15YR.  Lets describe what we want to fly here.  It’s not an airplane.  You start by jumping off a helicopter, you land with a parachute.  No landing gear other than two legs, maybe some elbows and in extreme cases, your face.  There is no seatbelt to hold you in, the airplane is strapped on and the pilot is a structural component.  With only 10 minutes of fuel, there isn’t really room for VFR reserves of 30 minutes, no transponder, no radio I can think of, the list is endless.  I’m sure the initial answer was NO WAY!, but I’ll talk to the boss in Washington.  Somewhere someone cleared this high tech device (the wing that is, not Yves) to fly.

The flight begins with strapping the wing on.  Yves stands on the flight step of a Eurocopter TwinStar helicopter and sits on a saddle, wing out.  The chopper is filled with crew and cameramen.   On takeoff you can see the man in the co-pilots seat grab the wing to help stabilize him.  Falling off at 50 feet would probably be fatal.   The TwinStar ascends to 6500 feet, the engines are started, as soon as they stabilize, his assistant pulls the plugs on the engine controls and he’s ready for flight.  The launch looks like a scuba diver rolling backwards off a boat, he falls over backwards and starts flying.  Control is though precise body movements and airspeed indication is based on the air pressure he feels.  

He flies for about 8 minutes, sometimes deploying smoke so he can be tracked by the crowd on the ground.  Trust me, I looked behind me at the crowd, everyone was looking up, they were all paying attention to him.  Bigfoot could have run through the crowd and nobody would have noticed, except Aviation and Wildlife Photographer Moose Peterson.  

The problem was that nice guy from the FAA.   They said Yves had to deploy his parachute at 2500 feet AGL.   Needless to say he was so high, he was a speck in the telephoto lens, he was hard to see and follow.  Following him wasn’t like watching a skydiver either, they pretty much ballistically fall; the jumpers in the wingsuits do some horizontal movement.  The JETMAN, was all over the field, he was on the left, and then on the right, he got around.  Really I wanted (as did 500,000 people behind me) to see him make a low pass with an overhead break.  We wanted him to fly formation with Melissa Pemberton.  For that matter we wanted him to race the jet truck.   But none of that was going to happen.  He got to 2500 feet and out came the chute.

I’m sure that landing wearing the wing was a challenge.  No wind, he makes a nice standing two point landing.  As the conditions get tougher, he starts adding points, on his feet, then onto his knees, arms and elbows, and finally a face plant or helmet plant in the most extreme conditions.  The landings I saw in his flights at Oshkosh were all picture perfect standing two point landings.   Superb job Yves.

After his appearance at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Yves is scheduled to be at the Reno Air Races for their 50th Anniversary September 11 to 15th.  The JETMAN’s sponsor Breitling watches also is the main sponsor at Reno.    He should be able to put on another good show there.  We look forward to seeing him again.

I’d like to thank Dick Knapinski of the EAA for making this story possible.  I’d also like to thank Breitling for sponsoring this endeavor for Yves Rossi, making him available for the rest of the world to enjoy.  You can find Yves at www.Jetman.Com.  My good friend Moose Peterson can be found at www.MoosePeterson.Com (great wildlife shots, aviation, and more).

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com.

Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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