Dubai jetman ‘failed to deploy parachute’ in fatal crash
A famed “jetman” daredevil who was killed in a crash last November failed to deploy the emergency parachute attached to the winged engines strapped to his back, a report on the tragedy in Dubai has found.
Investigators from the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority could not explain why Vincent Reffet, 36, of Annecy, France, did not use his parachute in the fall during a training flight in the desert of the sheikhdom.
Describing Mr Reffet as an “experienced professional skydiver” and jetwing pilot, the investigators said video from the November 17 crash appeared to show him lose control and go into a backflip, while hovering some 800ft off the ground.
Such backflips are common when wearing the wings and recoverable if the pilot thrusts forward through the flip, the report said.
Mr Reffet had experience of coming out of those flips in the past, but at higher altitudes.
The report said: “The risks of the 800ft hover was discussed during the pre-flight briefing and, as a risk mitigation, it was decided to abort the flight and to deploy the pyro-rocket emergency parachute should the jetwing become uncontrollable.
“The investigation could not determine why the pilot did not choose this mitigation action.”
Video from a camera attached to his helmet showed the parachute only deployed after Mr Reffet crashed into the ground.
Prior to that, his hands moved as though he thought he could enter again into a hover, the report said.
The jetwing showed no mechanical problems before or during the flight, investigators said.
The training flight was carried out to simulate a take-off from the ground, a triangular flight and a jet-powered landing on a 800ft platform, the report said.
A helicopter at that altitude was to simulate the platform, but investigators found no sign it played a part in the crash.
XDubai, an extreme sports venture sponsoring the flights associated with the crown prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nor did Jetman Dubai, for whom Mr Reffet flew.
Mr Reffet had base-jumped off the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 2,716ft in Dubai, setting a world record.
He earlier earned gold medals while competing as a free-flying skydiver on a team, and competed as an extreme athlete.
Jetman Dubai, founded by Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy, sees its athletes zip across the sky with a four-engine, carbon-Kevlar wing strapped to their backs.
The wings can fly for 30 miles, have a maximum speed of 248mph and can reach an altitude of 20,000ft.
Famously, in 2015, Mr Reffet and Mr Rossy flew alongside an Emirates Airbus A380 double-decker jetliner over Dubai.