Swiss pilot Yves Rossy flew the latest version of his jet-powered wing over the Swiss Alps this week. I mentioned Rossy (who now goes by FUSIONMAN) in an earlier blog entry, and at that time his wing only used a couple small jet engines. The wing he flew this week has about an 8-foot span, but now has four jet engines (erroneously called the Rocket Man by the mainstream press, the engines he uses are not rockets, but model aircraft jet engines manufactured by a German company). Even with four micro jet engines, Rossy still can not produce enough thrust to take off from the ground. Instead, he is dropped from an aircraft, deploys the wing, and then fires up the jet engines. His flight this week lasted about nine minutes and he hit speeds up to 185 mph. Even though it looked like he was gaining altitude during his flight, I think he is just trading speed for altitude as he zoomed up and down. The micro engines can probably only produce enough thrust to maintain altitude, but not climb. Also, he still has to deploy a parachute and land like a conventional skydiver when he runs out of fuel.
I wouldn’t get too excited about ordering one of these jet wings for personal use. Rossy has been working on his wing for several years, and as far as I know, is the only person to have flown anything like this. At 185 mph, it looks like the wing is pretty twitchy, and probably requires quite a bit of training and skill to keep it under control. It may have some military applications, since it could allow covert paratroopers to be dropped miles from their actual landing zone, with the jet wing producing quite a bit more glide, or cross range, than a conventional parachutist could during free fall. Or, it could be used to provide a pretty spectacular airshow performance. Rossy’s wing does show just how sophisticated micro jet engines have become. Originally designed for model radio controlled aircraft, you are starting to see them sized up for real aircraft, such as this self-launched glider. It will be interesting to follow the future developments and applications of these micro jet engines. As for FUSIONMAN, he hopes to use his jet wing to fly across the English Channel in the near future.