Friday, May 6, 2011

FAA May Clip Jetman's Wings

Las Vegas Review-Journal: After two years of planning, Yves Rossy is ready to strap a homemade, jet-propelled 6-foot wing to his back and rocket over the Grand Canyon at 120 mph.

But his scheduled flight this morning might be grounded.

The Federal Aviation Administration has not approved the Swiss daredevil's first American flight, meaning the custom-made wing has not been registered or inspected to ensure it meets safety standards, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. FAA officials were inspecting Rossy's invention, a process that was expected to last into Thursday night.

"I honestly don't know when he'll be approved," Gregor said. "We're working on it. We have to be certain when looking at something new like this. The challenge right now is to make sure it's safe, and at the last minute."

Gregor said Rossy never approached the FAA to receive the necessary approvals. Though Rossy received the go-ahead from the Hualapai Indian Reservation, whose land Rossy will be flying over, the airspace is not part of the reservation. For that, Rossy needs the U.S. government's say-so. The FAA sent the 51-year-old Rossy, known as "Jetman," a letter about a week ago informing him of the approvals needed before taking flight, Gregor said.

The FAA has determined that Rossy's wing is not an ultralight aircraft because it holds more than five gallons of fuel and travels faster than 62 mph. Instead, it probably would be judged as an experimental or exhibition aircraft requiring an airworthiness certificate. Rossy also has to conduct between 25 and 40 hours of test flights to be given the go-ahead.

Rossy canceled a news briefing scheduled for Thursday in Las Vegas so he could run last-minute tests, his representatives said.

If the FAA approvals come through in time for the 9 a.m. flight, the daredevil plans to jump from a helicopter near Eagle Point on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and fly for 15 minutes along the rim of the canyon.

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