Jetpack wingsuit pilot soars at nearly 150 mph, flies above city like Iron Man

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DUBAI — We may be closer to seeing a real-life Iron Man suit than you think.

The team at Jetman Dubai built a jet-powered wingsuit and say they just reached a major milestone with it — a pilot took off from the ground and then transitioned into a high-altitude flight.

The achievement occurred last Friday, when Jetman pilot Vince Reffett took off from a standing start on the runway at Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and then flew up to nearly 6,000 feet in altitude. He demonstrated the ability to hover, stop, turn and maneuver.

Jetman pilots have previously launched off of elevated platforms, such as off of a helicopter. But this is the first time that they’ve launched from the ground.

While traveling at an average speed of nearly 150 mph, Reffett was able to reach 1,000 meters of altitude in 30 seconds. Reffett was even able to perform a roll and a loop with the wingsuit. His flight lasted approximately three minutes, and he opened his parachute at 1,500 meters before landing safely to the ground.

“We are so happy we achieved this incredible flight,” Reffett said in a statement. “It’s the result of extremely thorough teamwork, where each small step generated huge results. Everything was planned to the split second, and I was overjoyed by the progress that was achieved. It is another step in a long-term project. One of the next objectives is to land back on the ground after a flight at altitude, without needing to open a parachute. It’s being worked on,” he said.

The carbon-fiber wingsuit is powered by four mini jet engines, and the team’s engineers were able to create a manually controlled thrust vectoring nozzle that allows pilots “to control rotations around the yaw axis at zero speeds.”

The yaw axis is perpendicular to the wings and allows the pilot to turn left and right while flying horizontally.

The milestone didn’t come easy.

Reffett conducted at least 50 preparatory flights, and he practiced more than 100 takeoffs and landings while under a cable and with a fall arresting system as precautionary measures.

The Jetman Dubai team is partnered with Expo 2020 Dubai and its “Mission: Human Flight” program to achieve autonomous human flight.

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