Defying Gravity: 'Birdman' and 'French Spiderman'

Winged flier and French climber talk about fear in superhuman exploits.

ByABC News
May 25, 2010, 12:21 PM

May 26, 2010 — -- Alain Robert and Jeb Corliss are two men who've never met, yet they share many of the same experiences. They're both risk takers driven by their fears.

One scales steel and glass towers, while the other soars through the air.

Corliss, 34, uses a flying squirrel-style wing-suit to travel at speeds of up to 300 mph and steer through the air during freefall.

"If you want to do something spectacular, something special, you have to be willing to take really unique risks," said Corliss.

Corliss described his childhood as unhappy and isolated. By his teens, he said, he was suicidal.

"I didn't really care, nothing mattered to me," Corliss said. "And all I know is that feeling made me want to do things that were really, really dangerous."

Base jumping -- freefalling from high structures -- became his passion, and he jumped from iconic landmarks across the globe.

"In my search for death I really did find my life," Corliss said.

Forever pushing the limits, Corliss moved on to wing-suit flying, which allowed him to fulfill his childhood dream.

"I was about 5 years old and I was watching these birds, and I remember seeing them open their wings and start to fly," said Corliss. "And I remember going, you know what, when I get older I'm going to do that."

In 2007, Corliss flew past the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil. He describes that flight as amazing but felt he wasn't close enough to anything -- so he set his sights on the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

Now he trains constantly to avoid missteps, like the one he had in Italy while training to fly off the Matterhorn.