The Bell Textron Jet Pack in the James Bond film Thunderball (yes, and Die Another Day) might look like fun, but it’s only good for about 30 seconds and it’s incredibly expensive to run. And the jetpack featured in The Rocketeer would probably burn your legs off faster than it would boost you into the sky … if it were real.
Today, New Zealand inventor Glenn Martin demonstrated his Martin Jetpack—the first jetpack with 30 minutes of flight time—at the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It has a patented fan jet technology, operates on run-of-the-mill gasoline, complies with Ultralight regulations and is easy to fly after completion of a training program.
“We’ve made it possible to fly the dream,” Martin said.
The thing is also loud, bulky and runs about $100,000 (donations should be sent to the GeekHeeb Martin Jetpack Fund, c/o The Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010).
On a couple of test runs in the yard of a home here belonging to a friend of Mr. Martin, the jetpack jumped off the ground as if impatient to get moving, scattering a cloud of dirt and grass clippings.
With the startling power of its twin rotors and its 200-horsepower engine behind my shoulder blades screaming like an army of leaf blowers, it felt almost as if I were doing the lifting myself, with muscles I did not know I had. It felt like living in the future — and, even better, the future we imagined back when it was something to be hoped for rather than feared.
Pressing the left-hand stick forward caused the device to pitch forward slightly, and the jetpack began advancing, a few feet above the lawn. Mr. Martin and a colleague steadied it by grasping hand rails and trotting alongside, like parents teaching a child to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
Then, coming around a curve, Mr. Martin jogged to the right to avoid some equipment on the ground, bringing the jetpack too close to an overhanging tree. The limb was sucked into the rotors with a brief but sickening sound, like a blender trying to make a margarita with twigs. Luckily, he had spare parts and access to a workshop to replace a chipped rotor.