DUBAI, UAE – It’s certainly another way to fly.
Daredevil ‘Jetman’ Yves Rossy took to the Dubai skies again with his wingman Vince Reffet — only this time accompanied by an Emirates A380 airliner.
Soaring above the city’s famous Palm Jumeriah islands, the pair are dwarfed by the massive passenger jet, the largest in the world.
Ahead of the groundbreaking flight, Rossy expressed his excitement.
“We will be mosquitoes, flying with an eagle or a condor,” he said.
Equipped with four engines and a Kevlar wing each, but looking for all the world like a pair of superheroes, the men flew in a holding pattern with their giant companion within a limited airspace over the man-made islands.
The breathtaking flight took 10 minutes — the limit of Jetman’s endurance, according to a release by Emirates — with the A380 banking and turning, leading the two jet wing pilots through a series of maneuvers with the desert city’s futuristic skyline shimmering in the background.
Although the exhilarating end result looks effortless, painstaking planning and preparation went into the flight, documented in a making-of video by the airline.
Flying at 4,000 feet — low for a passenger airline but heady heights for a man with a rocket strapped on his back — wake turbulence from the Airbus giant was identified as the biggest risk to the two human jets’ safety. The formation was carefully calculated to mitigate the dangers to the wing pilots.
A dress rehearsal flight was held the day before the main event.
“This display between man and machine celebrates the magic and beauty of flight, a feat which just over a hundred years ago would have seemed an impossible dream,” said Adel Al Redha, executive vice president for Emirates.
“It also showcases how far human vision and ambition has, and can continue to push aviation’s boundaries.”
The A380 and the jetmen were slightly mismatched in terms of thrust, speed and size, with the Airbus’ flagship aircraft producing 70,000lbs of thrust from each engine, versus a mere 88 lbs per Jetman engine. The aerial juggernaut also had to check its speed, with hugely disparate maximum speeds from the two aircraft types — 490 knots versus a maximum of 170 knots.
The A380’s superior thrust is needed, however, as the total weight of the plane is 560,000 kg (1.2 million lbs), compared with 150kg ( 331 lbs) per human jet.
“It was always a dream to fly without the constraints of being inside a cockpit,” Rossy said.
“Vince and I are thrilled to partner with Emirates and would like to thank them for helping us turn yet another dream into reality. It was absolutely surreal flying alongside the biggest aircraft there is.”
His partner, “Jetman Junior” Vince Reffet, added: “This is yet another historic flight for the Jetman Dubai team and we are so happy and thankful to be part of something this incredible.
“We spent a long time preparing, going over every tiny detail in the quest for perfecting our first formation flight with the Emirates A380 aircraft. It is incredibly humbling to be a part of what is such a significant achievement for Dubai and the Jetman team.”
Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 double-decker aircraft. It has 68 in its fleet and is expanding to 140 of the state-of-the-art jetliners in the near future.