News & Current Affairs

September 26, 2008

Pilot completes jetpack challenge

Pilot completes jetpack challenge

A Swiss man has become the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing.

Yves Rossy landed safely after the 22-mile (35.4 km) flight from Calais to Dover, which had been twice postponed this week because of bad weather.

The former military pilot took less than 10 minutes to complete the crossing and parachute to the ground.

The 49-year-old flew on a plane to more than 8,200ft (2,500m), ignited jets on a wing on his back, and jumped out.

Yves Rossy aimed to reach speeds of 125mph

Mr Rossy had hoped to reach speeds of 125mph.

It felt “great, really great”, said Mr Rossy: “I only have one word, thank you, to all the people who did it with me.”

He said weather conditions on Friday had been perfect and his success signalled “big potential” for people to fly “a little bit like a bird” in the future.

Known as “Fusionman,” he was aiming to follow the route taken by French airman Louis Blériot 99 years ago when he became the first person to fly across the English Channel in a plane.

In Dover, Mr Rossy flew past South Foreland lighthouse – which the building’s manager Simon Ovenden said Blériot used as a target during his pioneering flight – and looped onlookers before landing in a field.

“It’s a remarkable achievement, we saw the climax of his attempt as he came down to earth with his parachute. It’s been an exciting afternoon,” said Geoff Clark, a 54-year-old spectator from Chatham, in Kent.
His quote consistently is: I’m not worried about risk, I manage risk
Kathryn Liptrott
National Geographic Channel

Mark Dale, the senior technical officer for the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, described Rossy’s flight as a “fabulous stunt”.

In an interview earlier this week, Mr Rossy said: “If I calculate everything right, I will land in Dover. But if I get it wrong, I take a bath.”

The flight was broadcast live for the National Geographic Channel. Its producer, Kathryn Liptrott, told the  Mr Rossy was fearless.

“When we’ve talked to him and asked him are you worried about risk his quote consistently is: I’m not worried about risk, I manage risk.

“He flew Mirage fighters for the Swiss army, he now flies an Airbus. And in his sort of heart he’s a pilot and a parachutist and what they do is manage risk.”

The longest flight he had previously taken lasted 10 minutes.

The wing had no rudder or tail fin, so Mr Rossy had to steer it using his head and back.

As well as a helmet and parachute, he wore a special suit to protect him from the four kerosene-burning turbines mounted just centimetres from him on the wing.

August 8, 2008

Oil ‘could hit $200 within years’

Oil ‘could hit $200 within years’

Petrol pump

Rising oil prices push up the cost of other items such as petrol and plastics

A serious oil supply crisis is looming, which could push prices above $200 a barrel, a think tank has warned.

A “supply crunch” will affect the world market within the next five to 10 years, the Chatham House report said.

While there is plenty of oil in the ground, companies and governments were failing to invest enough to ensure production, it added.

Only a collapse in demand can stave off the looming crisis, report author Professor Paul Stevens said.

“In reality, the only possibility of avoiding such a crunch appears to be if a major recession reduces demand – and even then such an outcome may only postpone the problem,” he said in The Coming Oil Supply Crunch.

Lack of funding

Prof Stevens warned that investment in new oil supplies has been inadequate as oil firms prefer to return profits to shareholders rather than reinvest it.

Furthermore, oil producing cartel Opec has failed to meet plans to expand its capacity since 2005.

He also argued that a “resurgence of resource nationalism” means that governments are “starving” their national oil companies of investment by excluding international oil firms from helping to develop capacity.

“While the forecast is controversial and extremely bullish, even allowing for some increase in capacity over the next few years, a supply crunch appears likely around 2013,” he added.

“The implication is that it will quickly translate into a price spike although there is a question over how strategic stocks might be used to alleviate this.”

Unpopular measures

However, Prof Stevens does conclude that only “extreme policy measures could achieve a speedy response” in boosting supplies and lowering oil prices – a move that is likely to be “politically unpopular”.

Other, longer-term moves suggested by the report include offering support to help oil-exporters to manage “resource curse” – where an abundance of natural resources can damage a country’s economy – and allowing Opec to join the International Energy Authority’s emergency sharing scheme.

The report comes just days after oil prices slipped from peaks near $150 a barrel.

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