The daredevil crew behind Jetman Dubai have once again earned themselves a place in the history books, this time for the first 100% autonomous human flight which – should you have somehow missed the landmark video whipping the internet into a frenzy – can only be described as a superhero movie, made real.
Posted initially to the Instagram account of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council – and then, later, YouTube – the brief clip shows Jetman Vince Reffet taking off vertically at X-Dubai’s Marina location before charging onwards and away through the skies like some kind of comic book superhero.
Described by Sheikh Hamdan as “a major milestone in the quest to achieve 100% autonomous human flight”, this mission – supported by Expo 2020 – marks the first time a Jetman pilot has launched from the ground and hovered at a limited altitude before performing high altitude aerobatics in the same flight, giving us all a brief glimpse into the future of travel.
Soaring over Jumeirah Beach Residence and beyond, Reffet travelled more than 100 metres in the first eight seconds, reaching a height of 1,800 metres (twice the height of the Burj Khalifa, FYI) by the end of his three-minute-long flight. After punctuating the flight with some casual aerobatics – a roll and a loop – he opened his parachute and landed at Skydive Dubai. Reffet’s average speed? An eye-watering 130 knots.
Strapped to a carbon fibre wing powered by four mini jet engines, the Jetman Dubai pilots – who refer to themselves as ‘Jetmen’ – have flown all around the world, most recently over China’s spectacular Tianmen Mountains.
The multinational team is made up of French athletes Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen – extreme sports veterans and self-confessed aerial adventurers – along with pilot-in-training Ahmed Al Shehhi, an Emirati skydive pro. Having successfully undertaken 5,300 jumps over the course of his hair-raising career, Al Shehhi seems well placed to join the adrenaline-fuelled crew.
Specialist equipment enables the Jetman Dubai pilots to reach speeds of up to 400kmh, as well as hover, change direction and perform loops. Their missions usually require them to jump from helicopters before powering through the air... But not any longer, as Reffet deftly demonstrated through his historic test flight.
Previous missions have seen the Jetmen complete the first twin human formation in Dubai against an acrobatic plane, fly in formation with eight Alpha Jets in France as a trio, and even complete the world’s first-ever human flight alongside the Emirates A330 in Dubai, which, in all honesty, has to be seen to be believed.
Each daring stunt has seen the team edge ever closer to their ultimate goal: completely autonomous personal flight, otherwise known as #MissionHumanFlight. “There is a height range where humans cannot fly autonomously,” reads Jetman Dubai’s Expo 2020 campaign. “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.”