A French stuntman who became one of Dubai’s famed “jetmen” has been killed while training in the desert.

Vincent Reffet died on Tuesday morning in Dubai, his employer, Jetman Dubai, said in a statement.

The company added: “It is with unimaginable sadness that we announce the passing of Jetman pilot Vincent (Vince) Reffet.

“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.”

Tragedy

Vincent Reffet: French 'jetman' of Dubai killed in training accident in the desert
Daredevil Vince Reffet flies his jetsuit near the Dubai Eye Ferris wheel in February this year (Photo: EXPO 2020/AFP/Getty)

The company said it was “working closely with all relevant authorities” in the wake of the death.

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority, which investigates all aviation incidents in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, did not immediately comment.

Mr Reffet, a 36-year-old from Annecy in south-eastern France, had become well known for his flights with Jetman Dubai, many of them going viral on social media.

“Everything we do is something new,” he said in an interview last month.

“We have so many dreams and life is so short.”

Life on the edge

Vincent Reffet: French 'jetman' of Dubai killed in training accident in the desert
Mr Reffet’s teammates included fellow Frenchman Fred Fugen and an Emirati pilot, Ahmed Alshehhi (Photo: AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Jetman Dubai, founded by the Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy, emplloys athletes who zip across the sky with four-engined, carbon-Kevlar wings strapped to their backs.

Mr Reffet’s teammates included fellow Frenchman Fred Fugen and an Emirati pilot, Ahmed Alshehhi. Their wings have a flight range of 30 miles (50km), a maximum speed of more than 248mph and can reach an altitude of 20,000 feet.

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 world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, as they reached almost 6,000ft above Dubai’s waterfront.

In 2015, Mr Reffet and Mr Rossy famously flew alongside an Emirates Airbus A380 double-decker jet over Dubai.

Mr Reffet said at the time: “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.

“With this machine… I can fly like a bird.”

Vincent Reffet — A man who liked to live dangerously

Vincent Reffet was born in 1984 to parents who were both skydivers.

He made his first solo jump in 2000, then went on to become a world champion at Freeflying, a team skydiving event that includes vertical body orientations and much higher speeds than traditional belly-down freefall.

He was rarely far from his Soul Flyers “partner in crime” Frédéric Fugen and the pair dominated the sport between 2004-9, and became expert Base jumpers and wingsuit flyers as well. In April 2014, he and Fugen broke the city Base jump world record by leaping from the top of the world’s tallest building, the 828m (2,716ft) Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.

As part of France’s Freefly skydiving team, Reffet was crowned world champion in 2004 and won gold medals at the world championships in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. Among his many exploits, he had skydived 10,000m above Mont Blanc, and Base-jumped from Jungfrau, both in the Alps, into a moving aeroplane.

In 2015, Reffet and Fugen started to fly the Jetman jet wing, and have been the primary demonstration pilots since then. He is survived by his wife of three years, Agnes.

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