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Austrian Flies Across English Channel

July 31, 2003

CALAIS, France (AP) _ An Austrian specializing in daring stunt jumps donned a carbon fiber wing and flew across the English Channel on Thursday after being dropped from a plane.

Felix Baumgartner made the 34-kilometer (21-mile) trip in 14 minutes, according to Sarah Christofi, his spokeswoman.

``It’s very cold up there,″ the 34-year-old Austrian said upon landing at Cap Blanc-Nez, near the Channel port of Calais. ``I still can feel nothing.″

Baumgartner, fitted out with a parachute, was lofted from an airplane some 9,144 meters (30,000 feet) above Dover.

However, he relied solely on the 1.8-meter (5.9-foot) wing attached to his back for the trip, opening his parachute west of Calais only to slow down and land. He was dropped above Dover at 6:09 a.m. and landed at 6:23 a.m., at one point traveling at 350 kph (217 mph) Christofi said.

Despite the chill, Baumgartner said he felt ``great.″

Cloud cover obscured vision, forcing Baumgartner to follow two lead planes to find his way. His spaceman-like suit was equipped with cameras and monitoring equipment so that he could be tracked.

The first man to parachute from Malaysia’s Petronas Towers _ the world’s tallest building _ Baumgartner said it wasn’t by chance that he chose the English Channel to literally try out his wing.

``The Channel fits perfectly for the performance of the wing .... There’s a lot of spirit in this place,″ he said.

The extreme sports fanatic recalled the 1909 flight across the Channel of French aviator Louis Bleriot.

``And it’s exactly 100 years ago that the Wright Brothers were doing the first flight with a plane,″ he said. ``And now I’m here, with my little wing.″

Americans Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first powered flight, in a rickety airplane, in December 1903.

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