The Wright brothers may have been the ultimate aeronautical dreamers with the first airplane flight, but no one has come closer than Yves Rossy to making a human fly.
Rossy, aka Jetman, is a former fighter pilot who says he had always dreamed of being a bird since he first witnessed an air show as a 13-year-old. The inspiration drove him to invent and patent a series of jetpacks that would fire him through even more epic and courageous voyages.
From the first experiments in 2006, Rossy made his first public flight two years later, which took him over the Alps at speeds close to 200 miles per hour, at heights of 3,000 feet. The charismatic Swiss even found a moment to execute a 360-degree roll and later quipped, “That was to impress the girls.”
This was followed by a 22-mile journey across the English Channel to France, which he completed in under 10 minutes, becoming the first man to make the distance with a jet pack. The feat was broadcast live across the world with great uncertainty surrounding the outcome as Rossy himself confessed his calculations were fallible.
Since then he has continued to break ground and world records for distance. In 2009, he performed the first intercontinental jet flight, and went on to fulfill a deeply held personal ambition to fly along the Grand Canyon. Not all of his missions have been successful, having crash-landed off the Spanish coast when the weather turned threatening. Rossy is devoted to spreading his message — pursue your dreams and “always have a Plan B.” His TED talk remains one of the most downloaded, and he has also won praise for philanthropic efforts, such as performing shows for the benefit of disabled pilot school Aerobility. Rossy also hosts master classes for the next generation of jetpack pilots, which will surely produce the next great flying human.