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'JetMan' gets Grand Canyon OK but then scraps flight

Swiss daredevil Yves Rossy said he scrapped his plan to fly over the Grand Canyon in a jet-propelled wing suit Friday morning because he didn't have enough time to train.
Image: Yves Rossy
Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy pretends to leap into the Grand Canyon from Guano Point on the Hualapai Indian Reservation on Friday. Matt York / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The "JetMan" has canceled his latest planned flight.

Swiss daredevil Yves Rossy said he scrapped his plan to fly over the Grand Canyon in a jet-propelled wing suit Friday morning because he didn't have enough time to train.

"If I do a mistake and half of U.S. television (is here), it's really bad for you, for me, for everybody," he told The Associated Press from Guano Point on the Hualapai Reservation, where spectators had planned to watch him soar through the air.

Rossy added he would still like to do the flight over Arizona's scenic wonder, but a new flight has not yet been scheduled.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier Friday had approved plans for the 51-year-old adventurer to use the Grand Canyon as a backdrop for his first U.S. flight in a jet-propelled wing suit.

Rossy, who calls himself JetMan and has soared over the Swiss Alps and rocketed above the English Channel, has talked about soaring over the Grand Canyon for years.

He planned to jump from a helicopter on the reservation near Eagle Point, then fly westward along the rim of the canyon. The National Park Service had denied a request to fly inside the park boundaries.

The FAA sent Rossy a letter late last week outlining what he needed to do to make his flight happen and to ensure that safety standards had been met, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

The FAA said it never has been asked to evaluate anything similar to Rossy's jet suit, nor does it fit neatly into any category. In the April 28 letter to Rossy, the FAA said it became aware of his plans through public reports.

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. 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.

The reservation has become a draw for stuntmen like Rossy, who calls himself the "JetMan."

Robbie Knievel jumped a 200-foot-wide chasm of the Grand Canyon with his motorcycle there in 1999, clearing a gorge 2,500 feet above the canyon floor. Illusionist Criss Angel was shackled and locked inside a crate that was suspended over the edge of the Grand Canyon and 4,000 feet above the Colorado River last May.

The FAA has determined that Rossy's jetsuit doesn't qualify as an ultralight aircraft because it holds more than 5 gallons of fuel and travels faster than 62 mph. The administration said it likely would be categorized as an experimental or exhibition aircraft that requires an airworthiness certificate.

Rossy's jetsuit has developed over the years from an inflatable wing though at least 15 prototypes. He typically puts it on his back, turns on the engines and jumps out of a plane before the wing stabilizes. Navigating by sight and steering with his body, the flights come to an end when he runs out of fuel and opens a parachute.

He's admittedly had some blunders.

He once tried to cross the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain with the jetsuit but ended up in the Atlantic after hitting turbulence and thick clouds.

It's the kind of stunt that the National Park Service doesn't allow in its boundaries, though there's been no shortage of proposals — from celebrities hitting golf balls off the rim to rocket launches over the canyon. Knievel's father, Evel Knievel, once talked about wanting to jump the Grand Canyon but never made the attempt.

Those activities don't fit within the Park Service's mission, said Grand Canyon spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge.

"That's not why they (visitors) come to Grand Canyon National Park," she said. "It's a world-renowned heritage site and a national icon."