Billionaire to become birdman

Billionaire to become birdman

British entrepreneur Richard Branson has recovered his appetite for adventure after famously failing to set new records for an Atlantic speedboat crossing and round-the-world balloon trip, and has set his sights on a record closer to home.

This time the Virgin tycoon only has to fly more than 89.2 metres to enter the record books - but he has to do it under his own power.

Branson is one of this year's contestants at the Birdman Festival, at which inventors and other eccentrics from around the world strap on home-made wings and fling themselves off the pier at the southern British town of Bognor Regis and, in most cases, straight into the sea.

Their aim is to reach France, but so far the furthest anyone has got towards that goal is precisely 89.2 metres.

"I have done many crazy things over the years but attempting flight from Bognor Pier is one of the biggest challenges," Branson said.

The design of the apparatus in, on or under which the Virgin Atlantic airline boss and founder plans to throw himself into the brine on August 31 is a closely guarded secret.

The only clue available is that Branson has, reputedly, been following a vigorous training programme to increase the distance he can cover before the inevitable splash-down.

Branson pointed out that this year's Birdman Festival marks the 150th anniversary of the first manned flight in an aircraft designed by a Briton, George Cayley.

"My attempt will pay tribute to Britain's role in aviation history," he added, without a hint of irony.


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