March 10, 2012 / 8:26 PM / 8 years ago

Swiss ''birdman'' flies across Alps in free fall

A general view shows the Pigne D'Arolla mountain in the Swiss Alps, near Zermatt, September 7, 2007. Switzerland has been particularly hard hit by a warming climate, with ski resorts often short of snow cover and potential water supply problems as sources melt away. To match WITNESS-SWISS/WARMING REUTERS/Sam Cage

ZURICH (Reuters) - Hurtling over peaks at 500 km an hour (310 miles an hour), a Swiss man flew over the Alps in a wing-suit on Saturday, in what his team said was the first time the mountain range had been crossed in a free fall.

Parachutist Remo Laeng, 36, jumped from a plane 7,500 meters (24,600 feet) up, near the Swiss ski resort of Verbier and sped south over the Alps.

Laeng flew for 4 minutes before crossing the 4,314 meter (14,153 feet) high Grand Combin peak in southwest Switzerland to mark the feat.

Wing-suit flying, first developed in the 1990s, uses a special jumpsuit with webbing between the limbs to add surface area to the body and give it lift to enable to wearer to glide towards the ground before deploying a parachute.

Laeng triggered his parachute after a seven minute ride, covering 26 km (16 miles) horizontally, before landing safely in Aosta, Italy, Swiss news agency SDA reported.

One of his greatest challenges during the flight was judging whether he had enough altitude to get over the Grand Combin.

“I don’t run any risks,” he said. “If I see that it is not enough I would break off the flight ... I never had any doubts.”

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Ben Harding

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