July 31, 2013 - Shortly after Yves "Jetman" Rossy wowed the crowd at EAA Oshkosh on Tuesday in his first public performance in the United States (and first visit to Oshkosh), the Swiss aviation pioneer met the media for a Q and A session and revealed himself to be surprisingly down-to-earth.
"I'm proud to be here at Oshkosh, The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration," Rossy said after taking the EAA Press Center podium. "It's a great honor to do my first public flight here. This is the Super Bowl of aviation. It's a very emotional moment and a privileged one."
Rossy, who leapt from a helicopter wearing his strap-on jet-powered wing at about 6,500 feet, said the scattered cumulus above Wittman field created an unusual three-dimensional playground that almost distracted him from his performance. "It's completely unreal to fly like that between the clouds," he said.
The former Swiss air force and airline pilot noted that birds had inspired the human dream of flight. But as aviation progressed compromises required to overcome gravity took humans further from that pure experience.
"Now we are in fantastic boxes, supersonic boxes, but still it's like in a submarine under water, and I wanted to be just a free diver, nothing between me and the air," Rossy said. Eighteen years ago he began developing his jetwing to realize that lifelong dream.
Rossy's carbon-Kevlar jetwing, with a span of about 7.9 feet, uses four kerosene fueled Jet-Cat P200 jet engines, each developing about 48.4 pounds of thrust. He flies with no gauges to monitor the engines, altitude, or airspeed, but "we have instruments: the name is 'senses,'" he said. "You can tell when you put your hand out the window [of a car]. That's exactly what I have, the pressure on my shoulders and arms. You feel..." - Rossy made a shaking motion with his body to illustrate the sensation-"I don't need instruments."
Similarly, his jetwing has no control surfaces. All maneuvers are performed by changes to his body - or the fuselage, in Rossy's words.
A lithe and wiry figure, Rossy, 53, said he must keep fit to be able to perform the maneuvers, but he has no physical training regimen beyond engaging in activities he enjoys. "I don't like to be in the gym and lift tons of things - a minimum of fun with a maximum of effort," he said. "I prefer maximum fun with minimum effort."
He allowed that sky diving is the best exercise for flying the jetwing.
As Jetman, Rossy, sponsored by Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling, reaches speeds of 190 mph, but said that might be as fast as one would be able to fly even with additional thrust, due to aerodynamic forces. Nonetheless, in three weeks he will get engines that deliver twice the power, which he anticipates will allow him to climb vertically.
Rossy said he had inquiries about the jetwing from the U.S. Special Forces and had invited representatives to visit and discuss his wing. In response he received a 25-page request for more information for evaluation purposes. "So I said, 'Sorry, I don't just [give information] like that." As for any commercial market for the jetwing, "I don't think it's for everybody," Rossy said, noting that his apparatus is likely "too complicated" for most people to master and that the structure costs about $100,000 to construct.
Rossy also faced regulatory challenges in meeting FAA requirements to receive permission to fly the jetwing in the United States (EAA provided assistance), including receiving an aircraft registration number (N15YR). Such rules, Rossy said, strike him as the biggest impediment to advancing aviation.
"We bring innovation in the technical parts," Rossy said of pioneering aviators. "I expect to have innovation in the legal part, too. I should have five lawyers instead of five sponsors."