Jetman Jetwing - Dude Can Fly!

Yves Rossy's jet-propelled wing is a thing of beauty, but it didn't start out that way. One early failed prototype featured an inflatable wing; another failed effort featured a wing made from rigid carbon, but in 2004 at an air show he went into a spin and was forced to release the wing, which tore his parachute.
rossy wing
all photos © Stéphanie Thomet
by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Jet-propelled wing
  • Manufacturer: Homemade by "FusionMan" Yves Rossy
  • Propulsion system: 4 Jet-Cat P200 engines of 48.5 lb (22 kg) thrust each
  • Top average speed: 124 mph (200 km/h)
  • Top ascent speed: 112 mph (180 km/h)
  • Top descent speed: 186 mph (300 km/h)
  • Vehicle weight (w/fuel and smoke): 121 lbs (55 kg)
  • Vehicle weight (dry): 66 lbs (30 kg)
  • Vehicle span: 8.2 ft (2.5 m)
  • Fuel(s): Mix of kerosene and 5% of turbine oil for lubrification
  • Flight time: 10 minutes
  • Parachute type: Parachutes de France "Legend R"
  • Canopy type: PD Spectra 230
  • Harness type: Cut-away system with engine shut-down and automatic opening of a rescue parachute for the wing
  • Price: NA
  • Availability: Not commercially available

The manufacturer says

"What if us humans had wings?"

Overview

What if we did have wings? We've all wanted them at one time or another and wondered 'what if?', but one man no longer has to wonder.

rossy wing unmanned

Swiss-born pilot and adventurer Yves Rossy is the self-proclaimed "first jet-powered flying man in the history of aviation" and I'm not about to question it. This is a title he deserves, one he earned through trial and error.

Before developing his jet-propelled wing, Rossy spent much of his professional life as a pilot—first in the military, flying the Tiger F5 and the Mach 2 Mirage III—then as a commercial co-pilot, flying DC-9s and Boeing 747s for Swissair. He's also an experienced hang-glider and paraglider, he's sky surfed off a hot air balloon over the Matterhorn, and he has over 1,100 parachute jumps under his belt.

rossy wing collapsed

Here's how his jet-propelled wing works: Rossy rides aboard a small aircraft until they reach an altitude of 7,500 feet. At that point, with the device strapped to his back, Rossy leaps from the plane. During free-fall, he begins a steady glide with his wings extended. Then he fires the four Jet-Cat P200 jet engines, and BOOM—he's off, reaching speeds of 186 miles per hour. When ready or when he runs out of fuel, Rossy pulls his chute and flutters to earth.

According to Rossy, the body experiences very little stress during flight. Furthermore, a heat-resistant suit—plus the chilly air temperature—protects him against the heat of the engines.

What we like

The 'awe' factor. A jet-propelled wing elicits a long, profound and sighed "Dude" from us all, the kind that we just don't get that often anymore. rossy wing parachute

The safety system. It's hard not to like this, after all it's a bit much to ask for anything less as a means of returning to earth than a parachute, but the harness is cut-away, it features an automatic engine kill, and even spares the wing by providing its own rescue chute.

The simplicity and the audacity. Yes, this is a technological marvel in many ways, but at bottom, it's so simple and so obvious—it's practically the kind of thing Gilligan would have somehow made a mess of—and that's what makes it so audacious.

What we don’t

The availability. Why in the name of where eagles dare is this not on the market? Rossy has estimated that he and his sponsors have spent close to $300,000 on developing the wings, but he's tight-lipped about a potential market cost.

The fuel expense. To reach the proper elevation, then to fire the jet engines burning so much kerosene is bound to be an issue here at FutureCars, especially when there is at least one other personal flight option out there—namely the much cheaper and environmentally more friendly wingsuit.

The range. Although no official range has been published, doing the math is easy enough, and in ideal conditions it amounts to no more than about 20 miles. Of course, that IS as the crow flies…

rossy wing in flight

Conclusions

Yves Rossy's jet-propelled wing is a thing of beauty, but it didn't start out that way. Rossy experienced some low points along the way. For example one early failed prototype featured an inflatable wing; another failed effort featured a wing made from rigid carbon, but in 2004 at an air show he went into a spin and was forced to release the wing, which tore his parachute. A year later while in-flight he experienced uncontrollable oscillations, and had to release the wing, which was largely destroyed by ground impact.

Not until November of 2006 during a text flight over Bex, Switzerland did he finally see the kind of performance he wanted—a flight that amounted to "a waking dream lasting 5 minutes and 40 seconds." He experienced another setback in 2007, but since then it's been pretty smooth sailing for the Swiss adventurer, including a successful September 2008 flight across the English Channel, from Calais to Dover.

Next up for the Jet Man? A flight across the Grand Canyon.

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