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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Skydiver in record Channel flight
An Austrian man has become the first person to skydive across the English Channel.

Felix Baumgartner glided 22 miles across the Channel

Felix Baumgartner leapt from a plane above Dover at 0509 BST, landing 22 miles (35 kilometres) away in Cap Blanc-Nez near Calais just 14 minutes later.

He wore only an aerodynamic jumpsuit with a 6-foot (1.8-metre) carbon fin strapped to his back, an oxygen tank from which to breathe, and a parachute to land.

He told the BBC just after landing he was exhausted but the jump was "great".

"It was total freedom. If you step out of the aeroplane at this altitude, it's perfect because you see the Sun rise right over there. It's the beginning of the day.

"You're totally alone, there's just you, your equipment, your wing - and your skills. I like it."

Felix Baumgartner after his flight
The freefall was stressful but "great", said Baumgartner
The 34-year-old former mechanic said there had been a few problems at the beginning of the flight.

A cameraman following him passed out through lack of oxygen in the plane before the jump.

And when he jumped his legs and glider got entangled and he had to cut his glider into pieces, he said.

It was also extremely cold initially - with temperatures of minus 40 Celsius - and cloud cover meant he could not see where he was going.

"I couldn't see the other side so I had no reference point. I was flying over the clouds all the time.

"But in the last 2,000 metres, I could see those lights right over there, so I knew I was going to make it."

360 km per hour

Mr Baumgartner said the plane was at 30,000 ft (9,000 m) when he jumped - and he initially reached speeds of 360 km (220 miles) per hour.

For most of the freefall, he was travelling at about 220 km (135 miles) per hour, he said.

Baumgartner parachuted into Calais
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Calais, who was watching the flight, said Mr Baumgartner's journey had made a strange spectacle.

"At first he was just a distant speck hurtling through the morning sky, only occasionally visible between the clouds. With his carbon fibre wings silhouetted against the rising Sun it was a bizarre sight."

The process of leaping out of the plane involved lots of delicate manoeuvring, she said.

"Clearly he had to judge just the right minute to jump out of the plane so he could ensure the right currents.

"He was saying any single mistake in the way he uses his body or the way he places himself could put him off course - could be very dangerous."

There was something ridiculously daring about this challenge
BBC correspondent Caroline Wyatt

Mr Baumgartner had prepared for three years for this flight, with rigorous training including strapping himself on to the top of a speeding Porsche.

But he hinted he was still thirsty for a new challenge.

"This was my biggest project so far but there's still something left, so don't worry," he said. "It's top secret, but it's going to be awesome."

The Austrian is no stranger to daredevil feats, usually launched from great heights.

In 1999, he jumped from the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur - the tallest buildings in the world.

Felix Baumgartner
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