How did the Jetman concept come about?
I was a fighter pilot and an airline pilot, and when I was 30 years old, I discovered skydiving, which is the nearest thing to being able to fly. But effectively, you go down. But I wanted to keep the motion of flying like a bird, without falling, which is when the Jetman idea came to me. We can fly up to 300km an hour before looping. You have a lot of pressure on your hand mat, because we are flying at the same speed as motorbikes in competition.
You’ve recently paired up with skydiver Vince Reffet to perform twin human formation flying. Why?
It was natural, our friends put us in contact. We are two guys with the same passion and he is very talented. I wanted to share this knowledge and I wanted to know if it was possible to go and fly with other people.
Is there scope for this being available to civilians in the near future?
When The Wright Brothers took their first flight more than 100 years ago, they just thought that it was great to fly. They never thought it would become a means of transportation. We’ll see if we can make it affordable and accessible to everybody. Right now the wings cost quite a bit of money and you need training. You can’t give this to someone who has no experience. To control the jet wing you only use body positioning. If I want to go down I put my head and chest in that direction. It’s almost the same as driving a car and controlling the direction. The machine doesn’t work like a plane, it’s more like skydiving.
It’s obviously quite dangerous. How do you manage risk?
We train by doing different activities such as skydiving and base-jumping, which teaches us to react fast. Most of the equipment we use is trustworthy, with safety measures built in – if something goes wrong, we can release a parachute.
Do you ever feel like a superhero?
Yes, completely. Having the super-ability to fly is a thing of dreams. Superheroes save the planet in the movies. I’m not like that, but I am lucky to have that super-ability to fly for ten minutes. If I take more fuel I’ll be too heavy to fly, so ten minutes is a good compromise.
What goals do you hope to achieve in the future?
If you think of a bird and then you look at us, there is a big difference. We need an aeroplane to get into the sky and a parachute to land. Our final goal is to be able to fly like Iron Man. We are explorers and we don’t want to put limits on ourselves.
To find out more about Jetman’s adventures, visit www.jetman.com.