Piloting the future of human flight
Published: 31 Jul 2017
Fred Fugen is the third and most recent addition to Jetman Dubai, who fly the jet-powered wing-suits developed by Yves Rossy. An expert skydiver and base-jumper, he joined the team in November 2016.
What got you into skydiving?
My parents are both skydivers. They met on a drop zone. I did my first skydives in tandem with my dad when I was 10 years old and I loved it. When I was working in skydiving, I was doing mostly advanced coaching in my competition discipline, freeflying, and some coaching in wind tunnels as well. There was a period where we were combining sponsors and coaching, until we had enough good sponsors to only live off sponsorship. It’s different in base jumping because there are very few schools in the world, so professional base jumpers mostly live off sponsors. I’ve never had a regular day job outside of skydiving.
Of your many records, which are you most proud of?
Some of the best were the competition jumps that led my team to victory. Then there are projects like base jumping off Burj Khalifa [the tallest structure in the world, in Dubai], jumping at 33,000ft above the highest mountain in Europe, and base jumping with my wingsuit at night in the moonlight.
How did you join the Jetman team?
My teammate Vince Reffet was the first student of [original Jetman] Yves Rossy. I tried it as soon as I got the chance and I loved it too. It was at that time, when the Jetman project got sponsored by Dubai, that I started my formation. There was no tryout. We met Yves a while ago on drop zones and we became friends.
Why operate out of Dubai?
I have been living in Dubai since October 2014. The Jetman team is based in Dubai, a city that offers premium aerial sport facilities such as Skydive Dubai, Sky Hub and Inflight Dubai. During the summer months, however, because of the United Arab Emirates’ hot weather, the team moves the operation to Costa Brava in Spain.
What’s the goal of the Jetman programme?
We’re developing the jet-wing technology to explore its possibilities in the progression of human flight. The main goal we’re aiming to achieve over the next few years is to perform an autonomous flight that does not require any airplane or helicopter support. Flying longer jetwing flights and reaching higher altitudes are also among our targets for the near future.
What’s a typical day like?
Wake up early, go to the hangar, get ready to fly, do two Jetman training flights. Then, when the Jetman flights are done, go skydiving or wind tunnel flying or exercising. Dubai is the best place to do it all. Skydiving, wing-suiting and using wind tunnels are the best training for the Jetman flights.
Can you go flying wherever you want?
Every project involving a jet-wing flight is approved and planned by the Jetman team. Each country has its own regulations and we need to request the correct permits in order to fly the jet-wing abroad.
What are the dangers or challenges?
The hardest part is to have perfect reaction in case of a dysfunction of the wing. Sometimes it happens. There are some procedures to know by heart and you have to keep cool at any moment. Then it’s all about flying your body precisely.