One of Dubai’s famed Jetmen killed in a crash in November failed to deploy the emergency parachute attached to the winged engines strapped to his back, an investigation found.
Investigators from the General Civil Aviation Authority gave no explanation why Vincent Reffet, 36, of Annecy, France, didn’t use his parachute in the fall during a training flight in the desert.
Describing Mr Reffet as an “experienced professional skydiver” and jetwing pilot, the investigators said a video from the November 17 crash appeared to show him lose control and go into a backflip, hovering some 240 metres above the ground.
Such backflips are common when wearing the wings and recoverable if the pilot thrusts forward through the flip, the report said.
The investigation could not determine why the pilot did not[deploy his chute]
General Civil Aviation Authority
Mr Reffet had experience coming out of those flips, but at higher altitudes, Associated Press reported, citing the findings.
“The risks of the 800-feet 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 report said.
“The investigation could not determine why the pilot did not choose this mitigation action.”
Video from a camera attached to Mr Reffet’s helmet showed the parachute only deployed after he crashed to 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 to simulate a take-off from the ground, a triangular flight and a jet-powered landing on a 800-foot 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.
Flight sponsors XDubai did not comment on the report, nor did Jetman Dubai, for whom Reffet flew.
Reffet had BASE-jumped off the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, setting a world record. He earlier earned gold medals while competing as a free-flying skydiver 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 50 kilometres, have a maximum speed of over 400 kph (248 mph) and can reach an altitude of 6,100 meters (20,000 feet).
In 2015, Reffet and Rossy flew alongside an Emirates Airbus A380 double-decker jetliner over Dubai.