Yves Rossy’s invention allows him to fly by attaching a 4-engine jet suit with wings to his back, which he starts up after jumping out of a helicopter or plane.
Unlike similar aircraft, Rossy’s has no steering controls. Rather, he uses his body to steer — arching his back gains altitude and pushing his shoulders forward sends him into a dive. “If you put steering in it’s more like an airplane … I wanted to keep freedom of movement,” Rossy told the TED Global crowd.
Traveling at speeds of up to 190 miles per hour and a height of 3,000 meters, the aircraft can stay in the air for about 10 minutes, which was enough time for Rossy to cross the English Channel. He also recently flew above the Grand Canyon.
The device isn’t quite ready for mass consumption, however. Rossy, who served as both a commercial and military pilot earlier in his life, has had to use the wing’s escape parachute about 20 times — sometimes after becoming disoriented in the clouds, others after more than one of the engines fails.
Rossy, who does hope that one day his invention or something like it could be used by anyone, summarized the experience by saying, “I don’t have feathers, but I feel like a bird sometimes. It’s an unreal feeling.”
You can his one of his flights and invention look like in the video below from his Grand Canyon mission: