Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cheap flight from Morocco? Not!

In earlier posts on The View from Fez, our team has brought you many stories of brave or foolish attempts to travel to or from Morocco.

Who can forget the flying sand buggy? Or the jellyfish combating swimmers who swim to Morocco? But now we have a new entry into the "don't try this at home" category of idiosyncratic travel.

Enter Yves Rossy. Yves is Swiss and describes himself as an adventurer. Back in 2008 Yves strapped a jet engine on his back, added a set of wings and successfully jetted across the English Channel. Then he decided he would rather like to be the first person to fly between continents with a jet engine strapped to his back.

It was not an easy task. Yves strapped on all the equipment and jumped out of a light aircraft at 6500 feet above the Moroccan coast near Tangier. Wearing a very snappy flame-retardant suit, a four-cylinder jet pack and the latest in designer carbon fibre wings, he intended to jet from Morocco to Spain at 180 mph. After all it was only 23 miles...

Now, a few basic facts. Heavy stuff falls downward... The engine strapped to his back weighed 150 Lb. That's heavy. Also it seems basic that steering in the right direction would be a popular option. Sadly, the wing had no steering devices, meaning he had to use his head and back to control the movement.

The outcome? A search and rescue team codenamed Falcon 1, involving former special forces members, winched a very soggy Swiss adventurer out of the sea.

“I would like to say thank you that I am here, still a little bit wet, but I am here," said Rossy. “Thereafter I am also a little bit disappointed because I like to go to the goal and my goal was the beach. “I came not to the beach but I am also happy that I had the opportunity to try and I did my best.

The Clouds got in the way

Rossy blamed the failure on problems navigating through clouds which were larger than expected and turbulent conditions.

He said his wing was “not easy to fly” and the clouds added to the difficulties.

“Unstable at this height that’s no playing any more,” he said.

“So I did throw away the wing and opened my parachute.

“Thereafter it was the easy part because we did train yesterday.”

The former fighter pilot was able to cut away the parachute and waited for what felt like a long time, he said, “because the water is cold”.

Rossy said the aerodynamics on the wing were not “optimum” and added that he was working on an improved version. He said he wanted to continue his quest and hoped to try to complete the intercontinental challenge in the future.

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