Image: JetMan along Grand Canyon
Breitling
Yves Rossy's sponsor, Breitling, released this image Tuesday, saying it shows him shortly after jumping out of a helicopter and flying 200 feet above the rim of the Grand Canyon West on Saturday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/10/2011 6:12:52 PM ET 2011-05-10T22:12:52

Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy last Saturday completed a flight over the Grand Canyon in his custom-built jet suit, his sponsor announced Tuesday.

Rossy was airborne for more than eight minutes, soaring 200 feet above the canyon rim on the Hualapai Reservation after launching from a helicopter, Swiss watchmaker Breitling said in a press release.

A spokesperson for Grand Canyon Resort, a Hualapai company that facilitated the flight, confirmed that it happened.

Word of a Saturday flight came as a surprise because Rossy cancelled a planned Friday flight, saying it would be too challenging without any practice runs.

No reporters were present for the Saturday flight and a Swiss news website that has been tracking Rossy noted that he was nervous having so many reporters and onlookers waiting for him last Friday.

"I have a knot in my body," he was quoted by swissinfo.ch as saying. "Sorry for that. I’m human."

But a spokesperson for Breitling told msnbc.com that the event was low key only because Rossy didn't know until the last minute when wind conditions would be right for the flight.

"The intent was not to be secretive," Rachel Jones-Pittier said. "We couldn't give media a specific time for the flight" due to the wind factor.

Rossy was en route back to Switzerland, she said, adding that no press conference was held in part because the location is several hours away from any town.

The Federal Aviation Administration had given Rossy the green light less than an hour before he was scheduled to take flight Friday.

Rossy's team said he flew at speeds of up to 190 mph before deploying his parachute and landing on the canyon floor.

Rossy, who calls himself the JetMan, has rocketed above the English Channel and the Swiss Alps in his custom-built wing suit.

Rossy got the Hualapai tribe's OK three months ago, after two years of talks with tribal officials, visits to the reservation and pinpointing landing sites.

The FAA went back and forth with his representatives over whether the jet suit should be classified as an airplane or a power glider. The FAA said it never has been asked to evaluate such an aircraft, nor does it fit neatly into any category.

Rossy's jet suit averages 124 mph and has a 6.5-foot wing span; he wears it on his back, sending fuel to the four engines with a slight roll of his hand. The FAA ultimately grouped it with airplanes.

The agency usually requires 25 to 40 hours of test flights but waived that rule for Rossy, saying he already had a significant amount of flight time with the jet suit.

The aviation world has kept a close watch on Rossy, a former fighter pilot who has flown over the Swiss Alps and the English Channel in the past few years. While jetpacks and hang gliders have taken to the skies, "this one is a bit unusual," said Dick Knapinski, spokesman for the Experimental Aircraft Association.

"It's such a unique design and a unique pursuit that it doesn't fall in the usual categories," he said.

The Hualapai Reservation is known for the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge that extends 70 feet from the canyon's rim and gives visitors a view of the river. The reservation lies west of Grand Canyon National Park.

Msnbc.com's Miguel Llanos and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: 'Jetman' throws traditional flight for a loop

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