French daredevil 'jetman' Vincent Reffet known for Burj Khalifa stunts is killed in training accident in Dubai desert
FRENCH daredevil 'jetman' Vincent Reffet, famous for 'Iron Man'-style aerial stunts off the Burj Khalifa, has died during a training accident in Dubai’s desert.
Reffet, 36, of Annecy, France, "was a talented athlete, and a much-loved and respected member of our team," said Jetman Dubai in a tribute.
The Times says that he was a protégé of Yves Rossy, the Swiss “Jetman” who developed carbon-fibre wings powered with four small engines which enabled him to fly across the Channel in 2008.
In 2015, Reffet and Rossy famously flew alongside an Emirates Airbus A380 double-decker jetliner over Dubai.
Jetman Dubai confirmed his death on Tuesday in a statement, adding that it was “working closely with all relevant authorities".
“Vince was a talented athlete, and a much-loved and respected member of our team.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all those who knew and worked with him," it added.
Dubai police did not immediately acknowledge Reffet's death, and it's not been revealed how he died.
The adventurer has for years wowed fans after BASE-jumping off the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 828 metres, setting a world record. BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span and earth.
He also won gold medals while competing as a free-flying skydiver on a team and competed as an extreme athlete sponsored by Red Bull.
Jaw-dropping footage in February this year showed the brave pilot soaring above Dubai using a 150mph jet pack similar to the Marvel superhero Iron Man.
Reffet strapped himself into a wingsuit attached to four mini jet engines and set off over the huge city.
The thrills were in his blood as his parents were also skydivers.
“I believe that if you dream big and if you love what you do everything is possible,” Reffet was quoted as saying.
But the general public in Dubai came to know Reffet as part of Jetman Dubai.
The organisation, founded by Rossy, sees its athletes zip across the sky with a four-engine, carbon-Kevlar wing strapped to their backs.
The wings can fly 50km (30miles), have a maximum speed of over 400kph (248mph) and can reach an altitude of 6,100metres (20,000ft).
Under the brand of XDubai, which is associated with the crown prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the jetmen have flown past the Burj Khalifa and other sites around the city-state.
“It’s the sensation of freedom.
"Already, you know, when I am skydiving, I have like this feeling of freedom I can like pretty much go where I want but always going down,” Reffet said in 2015, after flying alongside the Emirates Airbus.
“With this machine … I can fly like a bird," he added.
As part of his Iron Man-style stunt back in February, the Jetman managed a successful vertical takeoff – that is, from a standing position – from a launchpad.
After taking a few moments to stabilise himself over water, Reffet careened into the sky, hitting a top speed of 150mph before pulling his parachute at an altitude of 4,900ft.
"A major milestone in the quest to achieve 100 per cent autonomous human flight. Well done boys," Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said.
The "Jet Wing" jetpack, built by Jetman Dubai, is controlled by the body of the wearer.
It can hit a top speed of 248mph while also allowing whoever dares fly it to hover, change direction, and perform loops.
Jetman Dubai says it aims to "create a future for individuals flying with jet wings" and "change the way we experience the world".
"There is a height range where humans cannot fly autonomously," the company says on its website.
"It is called the grey area. By flying at altitudes never attempted before, Jetman is narrowing the grey area. And in 2020, it will disappear."
The Jetman's successful test flight in February marked the first time one of the company's pilots had combined hovering near the ground and performing "aerobatics" – sophisticated aerial manoeuvres – at high altitude in the same flight.
The missions was also the first time a pilot had taken off "vertically" from the ground.
Previously, flyers have jumped out of a helicopter at high altitude.
"We are so happy we achieved this incredible flight.
"It’s the result of extremely thorough teamwork, where each small step generated huge results," Reffet said after his successful landing.
"Everything was planned to the split second, and I was overjoyed by the progress that was achieved. It is another step in a long-term project.
"One of the next objectives is to land back on the ground after a flight at altitude, without needing to open a parachute. It’s being worked on."
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