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 rescue helicopter winched him from the wind-swept waters to safety.
"I am still here — a little bit wet but I am still here," he told a news conference 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 coverage from planes and helicopters 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.
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 185 miles an hour until he was just 2,800 feet above the water.
"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.
"I love to fly and to fly like this is freedom," he said. "The emotions are so strong you become addicted."