Wingsuit and BASE jump legend Frédéric Fugen was joined by Vincent Cotte and Aurélien Chatard for a historic Soul Flyers trip out on October 11 and 12 when they performed a Taj Mahal fly-by in India to get a bird’s-eye of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
After previous projects with his late friend Vincent Reffet such as their Mont Blanc swoop, upside down Dolomites flight and breathtaking A Door in the Sky plane stunt, Fugen recruited compatriots Cotte and Chatard for his Human Meteor project at the hallowed Indian monument.
The trio, part of the Soul Flyers group of athletes that perform wingsuit projects around the world, lit up the wingsuit world last year with their Black Peak and famous Cedars of Lebanon project while Fugen and Cotte also combined to fly through the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
The Taj Mahal is an Islamic mausoleum that is one of the seven wonders of the world thanks to its stunning ivory-white marble appearance on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra.
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan erected it as a monument to honour Mumtaz Mahal, his third wife, with over seven million people passing through the beautiful gates each year to get a sight of it.
Fugen revealed: “Well, Taj Mahal is one of the wonders of the world, and it’s just amazing for us to be able to fly our wingsuit around there, to practice and showcase our sport above and around such a beautiful landscape. So, it’s been a very, very huge opportunity to be able to do it.”
While they conducted several reconnaissance visits to the Taj Mahal, they were only able to fly past it on the day of the jumps so their training for the project was done in their home country of France.
Fugen jumped out of an A Cessna 172 airplane at an altitude of 5000 feet about two kilometres away from the Taj Mahal and, using his wingsuit, he flew nearby the monument to achieve something that had never been done before – an individual proximity fly-by.
He flew by at a proximity of 510 metres, achieving a speed of 150kmph in the process. He then gained an elevation of about 50 metres before opening his parachute and landing in Gyarah Sidi (translates to Eleven Steps), the remains of an astrological observatory of the Mughal Emperor Humayun on the banks of the Yamuna River.
The trio performed one jump on October 11 evening and one more on the afternoon of October 12, the jumps seeing them light up the sky with green and orange colours to create a beautiful aerial display for visitors highlighting India’s Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav celebrations.
The project was filmed by renowned aerial sports videographer Dino Raffault, who has captured many of Fugen’s projects and also been part of Hollywood productions where aerial filming was involved.
Fugen added: “It’s a very big, big privilege to be able to fly here, it’s very special. I know it’s never been done before, so I feel very happy to share this joyous moment with my friends as well, to do it as a team.
We would like to thank everybody, all the people who helped us to make it happen, and of course, the team from Red Bull India because it’s been a great collaboration and a lot of work to make this dream come true.”