Following on from yesterday’s story on Virgin Galactic’s latest airborne creation, we have the Martin Jetpack (the site is pretty slow at the moment, presumably due to all the current media attention.) Not a jetpack in the truest sense as it is powered by large duct fans rather than an airplane-like jet engine, it can nevertheless reach six feet into the air. The designer, Glenn Martin, expects to eventually reach 8,000 feet – although it would normally be operated much lower at between 1,500 and 2000 feet at a top speed of over 60mph.
The machine was revealed to the public at the AirVenture air show yesterday, where it was piloted by Martin’s son Harrison who has been testing the craft in secret since he was 15 years old. Now 16, his demonstration took place just a few feet off the ground, and he was assisted by helpers holding him down on either side.
Glenn Martin plans to sell the jetpacks for $100,000 dollars each, and will begin training the first 10 Rocketeer hopefuls next year in New Zealand where Martin lives. His website states “all owners are required to pass the Martin Aircraft Company approved training program before receipt of their aircraft,” and that although a pilots license is not necessary, “to attempt to fly any aircraft without professional instruction is extremely foolhardy.”
I can’t help but agree with him. I am currently learning to drive, and find handling a vehicle in two dimensions difficult enough. The prospect of strapping two large fans to my back and navigating the skies is frankly terrifying, and unlike yesterday’s promised of mass spaceflight, I’m not sure that we will every see jetpacks in use by the general public – if only because governments will never fully allow it. On the other hand, the media was equally as doubting of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, and now millions of people fly in planes daily. Perhaps the personal jetpack is just waiting to take off.