Jetpack Daredevil Soars at Nearly 200 MPH over Grand Canyon

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Dressed in snug yellow and black spandex like a human bumblebee, 51-year-old Swiss daredevil Yves “Jetman” Rossy defied death—or at least gravity—to soar over the Grand Canyon last Saturday at speeds approaching 200 m.p.h.

At daybreak, Rossy can be seen (in the video below) wheeling his triangular strap-on carbon-fiber jetpack (it looks like a miniature version of the Stealth Bomber) toward a waiting helicopter, which shortly thereafter lifts off, Rossy aboard, to whup-whup-whup its way to a point over a Nevada section of the monstrous gorge some 8,000 feet high.

And then he jumps—or rather falls—backwards from the helicopter’s side, spinning heels-over-head before igniting the quad-turbine-powered jetpack and settling into a flight path marked by twin contrails as he cruises over the canyon at incredible speeds of up to 190 m.p.h. At one point he appears to propel himself upward and level with the cameraperson in the helicopter, then rises further at a 45-degree flight angle. After over eight minutes aloft, a ribbed yellow parachute deploys and Rossy glides safely to a pink-arrowed landing point along the canyon’s floor.

Amazing once-in-a-lifetime stuff—or thrice in a lifetime for someone like Rossy, to count his two other most notable record-attempting jetpack stunts: one for crossing the English channel in under 10 minutes on September 26, 2008, and another for attempting (not successfully) to cross the Strait of Gibraltar in November 2009 (strong winds forced him to ditch into the sea).

Crazier still, Rossy didn’t get Federal Aviation Administration approval for the flight in time for dry runs. You’re looking at the one and only flight in the following video.

In just four days time, I’ll be overlooking the Grand Canyon myself, though safely perched along some touristy viewpoint, and sadly without a super-cool do-it-yourself jetpack.