Frenchman Vince Reffet, part of the “Jetman” team that has performed groundbreaking stunts above Dubai using jetpacks and carbon fiber wings, was killed in a training accident on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
Jetmen has launched a series of dramatic flights over the Gulf City, which hovers in time over the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and together with an Emirates Airbus A380, the world’s largest commercial commercial aircraft.
Stunts elsewhere in the world, including flying into an airplane through a small door in the middle of the flight, and flying through China’s famous “Heaven’s Gate” vault in the mountains of Hunan province, drew huge crowds on social media.
“It is with unimaginable grief that we announce the passing of Jetman Pilot Vincent (Vince) Reffet, who died this morning, November 17, during training in Dubai,” Jetman Dubai spokeswoman Abdulla Binhabtoor told AFP.
“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.”
The accident, which occurred at 36-year-old Reffets Jetman base in the desert outside the city, is now under investigation.
“We work closely with all relevant authorities,” said Binhabtoor.
The reef’s feats went viral earlier this year, with video of him rising from the ground and climbing 1,800 meters (almost 6,000 feet) across Dubai’s beach, in a feat reminiscent of Marvel’s “Iron Man”.
The Frenchman hovered five meters above the water off the coast of Dubai before firing into the air, obscuring the city’s skyline in the stunt that was hailed as a world prince.
Jetmen had previously launched into the air by jumping from high platforms.
In an interview with AFP in October, Reffet described the uproar of stunts as zooming in on the plane flying over the Swiss mountains, which he said made him feel “sick to his stomach”.
“You’re not feeling well, it’s a mental battle. And then you get on the plane, the project is over, and now you’re already thinking about the next project. You’re looking for that moment,” he said.
“You have so many dreams and life is so short.”
The reef’s carbon fiber wings are powered by four mini-jet engines. The equipment, which is controlled by the pilot’s movements, can reach speeds of 400 kilometers per hour.
The Jetman team also includes Frenchman Fred Fugen and Emirati pilot Ahmed Alshehhi.