Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Fugen and Reffet reveal how latest viral video was possible.
Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet laugh in surprise at the global attention their latest stunt has garnered.
The Soul Flyers’ ambitious attempt to fly in wingsuits off the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps and into a plane moving at 130km/h has made it to news bulletins from Australia to the United States and everywhere in between in the last 24 hours.
“We wanted to create a buzz as that’s what we do,” explains Fugen, “but the reaction has been amazing particularly from old skydivers, these guys who really were pioneers.”
It is a nod to one such pioneer that the project got off the ground in the first place, the pair aiming to emulate the 1997 feat of Patrick de Gayardon of jumping out of a plane in a wingsuit and then landing back into it.
Reffet, though, came up with the added twist of a mountain – in their case Jungfrau – for the starting point with a Pilatus Porter light aircraft their end point in what, on paper, seemed initially a mission impossible.
Fugen says: “We studied the whole thing a lot and did a lot of tests [including 100 test flights] and realised it was possible. It was about getting the correct trajectory as it’s difficult because we were starting from a standing point and obviously the plane was already moving, so you need to get up to the right speed and also get the timing right.”
In the pair’s film, A Door in the Sky, they are barely metres away from the plane’s propeller in the final moments of the stunt but both land inside the plane without brushing its exterior.
“It’s funny,” says Reffet, “but you’re the first person that’s noticed that. All our training was done to be able to do that but it’s so finely balanced. It’s like doing the pole vault, one tiny move and it knocks the bar off.”
Neither man feared hitting the propeller – as Reffet puts it “we were more likely to get thrown backwards than anything” – more hitting a part of the plane, which had been heavily padded after earlier mishaps.
Both were in constant contact with the pilot and the wider team to liaise for the perfect moment of speed, trajectory and flight to enter the aircraft.
As for how they next raise the bar, Fugen jokes: “Well, we now have to go higher than Felix Baumgartner [who famously jumped from space]!
“But who knows what is possible? A few years ago, this stunt was not really possible but the equipment is developing so fast it opens up new possibilities.”
And are they planning to fly into a plane again anytime soon? Fugen said: “I think we prefer to jump out of a plane. Jumping into a plane is not something we want to do every day!”
The duo both got into the sport through their parents, who were active parachutists. They become close friends while on the French national freefly team, later making their legendary partnership while at the Skydive Empuria parachute club in Empuriabrava, Spain. They brought Soul Flyers back to life in 2010.
Born: 25/07/1979 Annecy, France
First solo jump: 1996
Joined national freefly team: 2004
Freefly World Champion (with Vince): 2004, 2006, 2008
Born: 15/09/1984 Annecy, France
First solo jump in 2000
Joined national freefly team: 2002
Freefly World Champion (with Fred): 2004, 2006, 2008
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