ATLANTERRA, Spain — A Swiss adventurer trying to soar from Morocco to Spain on jet-powered wings ditched safely into the Atlantic on Wednesday after hitting turbulence and clouds so thick he could not tell if he was flying up or down.
The bad weather — rather than a mechanical malfunction, as reported earlier by the project’s sponsors — thwarted Yves Rossy’s bid to become the first person to achieve such an intercontinental crossing.
Rossy waved from the cold blue sea while awaiting rescue, his red wing and striped parachute floating beside him. In time, a rescuer helicopter winched him from the wind-swept waters to safety.
“I am still here — a little bit wet but I am still here,” he said after undergoing a medical checkup, still wearing his red and white flying suit. “I did my best,” he said.
Rossy, a 50-year-old former fighter pilot, took off from Tangiers but a few minutes into what was supposed to be a 15-minute flight he vanished from TV screens providing live footage from planes and choppers accompanying him. For a good 10 minutes, no one knew where he was.
Rossy said that about three or four minutes into the flight he hit turbulence and entered clouds that he described as beautiful but disorienting because he could not see and had no reference points.
He tried to climb over the cloud cover “but before the blue came again” his flying became unstable. Eventually he found himself wobbling and dropping at up to 300 kilometers per hour until he was just 850 meters above the water. At that rate he would have hit it in about 20 seconds.
“So the sea comes very fast,” he said. “Unstable, at this height, there is no playing anymore. So I throw away my wing and opened my parachute.”
Rossy said he was disappointed but will keep doing this kind of flight — he did the English Channel last year — and plans to take on the Grand Canyon next spring with an upgraded wing he is now completing.
“I love to fly and to fly like this is freedom,” he said. “The emotions are so strong you become addicted.”