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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
'Birdman' dives to dry land

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
In Cap Blanc-Nez, near Calais, France

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt watched as Austrian parachutist Felix Baumgartner successfully became the first person to skydive across the English Channel.

0530, Calais: Nail-biting moments for Felix Baumgartner's support team, waiting on the cliffs of Calais for the countdown to his jump.

Did it: Journalists applauded when Felix landed

Felix's girlfriend, Katjuschka Altmann, is here too, looking nervously up at the dark skies.

Then we see the lights of his plane taking the 34-year-old daredevil to his drop off zone, 30,000ft above Dover.

Just half an hour later comes the countdown in Calais - five, four, three, two ... and then the announcement of a two-minute delay.

What we don't know until later is that the cameraman on board the plane with Felix has passed out from lack of oxygen - Felix gives him some of his oxygen before taking his leap into the clouds below.

0610: Around 30 journalists and camera crews from around Europe are scanning the dawn sky for any sign of Felix when suddenly we see a speck hurtling through the air towards us at an immense height.

Then we see him more clearly, the 6ft wings strapped to back silhouetted against the rising sun.

Suddenly I can see why he called the project Icarus 2.

It may have been tempting fate, but there is something almost mythological about the sight of the man flying un-powered through the sky, free-floating like a bird.

Birdman lands

But Felix was rather luckier than Icarus - there is too much cloud cover in Calais on Thursday to be in any danger of burning his wings.

0620: The birdman has landed - considerately right in front of the camera.

Unusually for journalists, everyone spontaneously bursts into applause.

There was something ridiculously daring about this challenge.

Felix Baumgartner
Not Buzz Lightyear but Felix 'flying' over the Channel

A big thumbs-up from Felix and then there is a scrum around him as the Austrian looks both elated and relieved.

So how did it feel?, we shout.

"It was great", he replies, still holding onto his wings.

"It was a feeling of total freedom alone in the sky, just me and my wings up there, relying on my own skill and training."

His only problem in this picture perfect flight was the cloud cover.

No nerves

At first, Felix says, he could not see the landing spot in Calais and it was only as he drew closer to the shores that he could see the red flares held up by his support team.

Any nerves?

"No, I wasn't nervous. I spent three years training for this perfecting the wings and it was the perfect preparation," he said.

Felix smiles and his girlfriend, Katjuschka, hugs him, clearly relieved it all went smoothly.

Skydiver
Baumgartner parachuted into Calais

The flight, Felix says, was even quicker than expected - his initial speed was 360km per hour - or 200 miles per hour before he slowed for landing and pulled open his parachute.

0800:: We see the pictures taken by the two cameras strapped to his wings and helmet.

They are incredible, a man flying above the clouds like superman.

Suddenly we can see and understand why he set himself this challenge - it looks both frightening and great fun.

Next feat

It has also put this rather earnest daredevil into the record books for the first human flight unaided and unpowered across the 21 miles of the English Channel - or 35km if you prefer.

Even his landing ground was chosen with Austrian precision - it is where Louis Bleriot, the French aviator, made his first record-breaking flight across the Channel in an aeroplane in July 1909.

0815: Felix just smiles and shakes his head when we ask what his next challenge will be.

"Top secret", he says, although it may well be an even more daring flight with his delta wings somewhere else in the world.

Then live interviews with all the media done, the man in the silver suit is gone, off to plan his next death-defying stunt.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights of Felix Baumgartner's jump




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