With his flight last week of a rigid-winged, jet-powered, weight-shift controlled aircraft, 36-year-old Vince Reffet set the aviation world on its ear, though word of the achievement, which spread like jet-powered wildfire through the human flight community, has only started to trickle out in the general aviation world as a whole.
The flight, which took place in Dubai last week, is absolutely awe-inspiring to watch. Caution, please. If you start the 3:47 video, you will watch the entire thing, but the high-points to look for are Reffet taking off under his own power—in the past he and fellow jet wing pilot and flying partner Yves Rossy had dropped from aircraft or high places—and his return.
That “return” is what we pilots refer to as a landing, and it is in technical terms certainly the most remarkable achievement shown here. During that “l’atterrissage,” as the French would say, Reffet settles perfectly onto the concrete apron on the Dubai waterfront. But the most phenomenal thing to see is the French pilot’s stunning NASA-worthy launch above the Dubai skyline, before he returns for a parachute- assisted landing. Our heads here are still spinning.
As you’re watching, please bear in mind that this aircraft has no flight controls, though there is vectored thrust, of a kind. Hang-gliding traditionalists might note that the jet wing is not far removed, in aeronautical theory anyway, from a powered weight-shift hang glider, though in this case, the pilot is literally wearing the aircraft. This aircraft is made of carbon fiber, and features, as a critical component, a small parachute for most landings.
What’s our take? Well, suffice it to say that our favorite comment on the YouTube page showcasing Reffet’s flight: “When I saw him take off like that I thought, ‘Here, just take all my money! Give me one!’” Yup.
Subscribe today to Plane & Pilot magazine for industry news, reviews and much more delivered straight to you!