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Birdman flies from UK to France

Baumgartner called his flight
Baumgartner called his flight "Icarus 2".

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CALAIS, France -- An Austrian extreme sports fanatic who calls himself "God of the Skies" has become the first human to fly across the English Channel without an aircraft.

Felix Baumgartner made the dive early Thursday morning, jumping from an aircraft high above the English port of Dover and landing near Calais six minutes and 22 seconds later with crowds, including journalists from across Europe, on hand to greet him.

Clad in a specially designed suit and fitted with carbon-fiber gliding wings, Baumgartner covered a distance of 35 kilometers (20 miles) during his flight, reaching speeds of up to 200 kilometers an hour.

Jumping from an altitude of 9,000 meters (30,000 feet), close to the height of Mount Everest, he also had to carry oxygen and special breathing apparatus to cope with the thin air.

"I made it which is great," said "Fearless Felix," aged 34, who started parachuting as a teenager before taking up the extreme sport of BASE jumping.

"It's pretty cold up there. I still can feel nothing."

He said cloud cover meant he could not see where he was going and had to follow his two planes across the Channel.

"For the last 2,000m I could see the other side and I knew I was going to make it," he said.

He dubbed his cross-Channel flight Icarus 2 after the mythical figure who came to grief after flying too near the sun, melting the wax holding his wings together.

Baumgartner after his landing with a parachute near Calais, France.
Baumgartner after his landing with a parachute near Calais, France.

While in the air, Baumgartner had to keep a grip of the wing -- with a span of 1.8 metres and made of the same special lightweight carbon composite used in Formula One racing cars -- in order to maintain direction.

The flight was made in the early morning to avoid air traffic control problems with commercial airliners.

Sarah Christofi, spokeswoman for the event sponsors Red Bull, told the UK's Press Association: "Everything went well and it was a success. There was a little bit of a problem with the parachute when he was descending."

She added: "He is absolutely fine but one person in the plane came close to passing out because of the lack of oxygen."

The drop plane went beyond the expected altitude of 9,000m because weather conditions allowed it, she added.

She said: "Felix is feeling pretty good and he is pretty happy. He says he's got things in the pipeline, which includes a wing, and will be bigger and better."

In contrast to Baumgartner's six minute journey, Louis Bleriot, the first man to fly across the Channel in an aircraft, took 37 minutes to make his groundbreaking 1909 flight.

Baumgartner has several sky-diving and parachuting records to his name, setting records for the highest and lowest parachute dives in 1999 with jumps from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro. (Full story)


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