It would be quite remiss of me not to comment on the cool video of Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, aka "Fusion Man", and his remarkable jet-powered wing. There's a YouTube video associated with the news story which, although it's in Swedish, is quite interesting to watch. This flight was the culmination of five years of training.
The equipment is quite impressive: with his eight-foot wings extended, he stepped out of an aircraft at 7500 feet over the Alps, turned on the jets and accelerated to 186 miles per hour. He was able to do figure-eights, loops, and climbs of up to 2600 feet. Maneuvering is achieved by altering body position, in a similar manner that a normal skydiver maneuvers.
A couple of comments in the AP article jumped out at me:
"Passing from free fall to a gentle glide, Rossy then triggered four jet turbines and accelerated to 186 miles per hour, about 65 miles per hour faster than the typical falling skydiver." (Emphasis mine.) Many people don't realize that a skydiver's freefall speed is highly dependent on body position. In the standard belly-to-earth position, the average is roughly 120 mph. On can also fall in a sitting position ('sit-flying'), and the average speed is between 160-180 mph. One can also fall 'head-down', and one can achieve speeds between 160-200 mph, and above. In my sit-flying attempts, my electronic altimeter has recorded speeds of 229 mph, though is suspect it's reading a little high. Of course, I can't increase my altitude in a normal skydive!
"But on this ride, even the slightest movement can cause problems. Rossy said he has to focus hard on relaxing in the air, because "if you put tension on your body, you start to swing around."" This statement is true not only for jet-flying, but also for normal skydiving. It is especially true for sit-flying and head-down, because the body positions are highly unstable.
Finally, "But, he believes similar jet-powered wings will one day be more widely available to experienced parachutists ready for the ultimate flying experience."
I can't wait!