Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 January 2020

Dubai skydiver aims to become first flying Emirati Jetman

Ahmed Al Shehhi is training to fly a 330kph carbon-fibre wing in time for Expo 2020 Dubai

Ahmed Al Shehhi is training to safely command speeds of almost 300kph under a jet-powered carbon-fibre wing. XDubai / Predrag Vuckovic
Ahmed Al Shehhi is training to safely command speeds of almost 300kph under a jet-powered carbon-fibre wing. XDubai / Predrag Vuckovic

An Emirati skydiver is edging closer to his dream of joining an elite team of Jetmen to introduce a new era of human flight.

Ahmed Al Shehhi, a professional at Skydive Dubai, will take to the skies once he finishes training to be able to safely command speeds of almost 300 kilometres per hour under a jet-powered carbon-fibre wing.

Test flights have already been completed by French daredevils Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen.

Mr Al Shehhi hopes to join the select band of stuntmen in time for Expo 2020 Dubai, when a series of displays are planned.

From the first day I saw the Jetman flying, I have dreamt about it

Ahmed Al Shehhi

“From the first day I saw the Jetman flying, I have dreamt about it,” he said.

“I often thought 'how does it work and what are the skills required to fly?'

“Now I have this chance, I am working hard to be the next Jetman.”

As a keen wakeboarder and skier, Mr Al Shehhi was offered a gateway into skydiving by a friend in 2011.

Just a year later, he joined the UAE national team, continuing his free-fall education on the Skydive Dubai demonstration team in 2017.

His current training to join the exclusive Jetman project – called “Mission 1” – includes perfecting his base-jumping skills, where he skydives from a solid platform like a cliff-edge or building.

Mr Al Shehhi must also gain a private pilot’s licence, which he is currently studying for in South Africa, and master proximity flying, the practice of flying at high speed close to the faces and ridges of mountains while wearing a wing suit.

Once fully trained, the adventurous Emirati hopes to develop the future of winged-flight alongside those who first designed and developed the Jetman equipment.

“My dream is to start the first school for human flight,” he said.

“We want to be the first pilots that can claim 100 per cent human flight, but we don’t want to be the last.

“We want to try to make Jetman easy to operate and to fly.

Ahmed Al Shehhi is a skydive professional who hopes to soon command a jet-powered carbon-fibre wing. XDubai / Predrag Vuckovic
Ahmed Al Shehhi is a skydive pro who hopes to soon command a jet-powered carbon-fibre wing. XDubai / Predrag Vuckovic

“I want it to feel like second nature and to be able to fly freely.

“It’s a long journey to get to actually fly the wings but, with Vince and Fred by my side, I could not ask for a better team.”

The engineering feat is a project dreamt up by Swiss former military pilot Yves Rossy, and is sponsored by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai’s adventure sports company XDubai.

The equipment has already featured in several short films on social media, showing test flights around Dubai, Norway and China.

Several others are planned in the run-up to the world fair in Dubai next year.

XDubai’s general manager, Javad Khoramifar, also a keen skydiver, said the Jetman project is just the beginning of what can be achieved.

“The jet pack has been around since the 1950s, but this is actual flying,” he said.

“Ahead of Expo 2020 we will tell the story about bringing to life human flight and showing how we are now capable of flying between cities and countries.

“In this case, humans can become aircraft.”

Safety is at the centre of XDubai’s many projects, which include ziplines at Dubai Marina and a slingshot on Kite Beach.

Mr Khoramifar is proud of the company’s 100 per cent safety record.

“We all take risks every day, either getting in our cars or boarding a plane to fly somewhere, but it is how we manage those risks,” he said.

“That is what we are trying to do at XDubai.

“Our projects take time, but it is always worth it. This has helped us maintain our good track record.

“Seeing people fly through a mountain or a valley inspires everyone, it is more than just ticking one box. Flying is the dream of many of us.”

Updated: December 30, 2019 03:13 PM

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