Here we go again. Another company is claiming to have finally designed a practical flying jetpack, and is planning to unveil it to the world at the annual flying Mecca known as AirVenture Oshkosh on July 29. The company, Martin Jetpack, is being coy at this point, releasing very few details about what they are calling “The Worlds First Practical Jetpack“. They have produced a cryptic video which talks about man’s dreams of soaring through the skies with a personal jetpack, and then teases with some clipped views of what I assume are various parts of the jetpack. You never do get to see a complete view of the vehicle, so it’s hard to tell how big it is compared to previous jetpacks that have flown. However, some of the information released does permit me to speculate about what we may see.
As I wrote in a previous blog entry about jetpacks, while numerous designs have flown, none has ever evolved beyond being an aviation oddity. The primary failing of the jetpack has always been its very short flight duration, measured not in hours, or even minutes, but only in seconds. Martin is claiming that their jetpack will have a flight duration 100 times greater than the Bell Rocket belt flown in the 60’s. Since the Bell Rocket belt could only fly for about 20 seconds, that would mean the Martin jetpack can fly for 2000 seconds, or almost 30 minutes. Flying at a conservative speed of about 20 mph, that would produce a flight distance of at least 10 miles. Quite a spectacular claim considering the best rocket belts could only fly a few hundred yards. Also, Martin claims their jetpack will meet FAA ultralight requirements, which indicates it could have an empty weight of up to 254 pounds. This would mean it could be more of a flying platform than something you could strap to your back. It is also said to run on regular gasoline, implying it uses some type of turbine or jet engine instead of a rocket engine. While jet engines are much more fuel efficient than rocket engines, you would still require quite a bit of fuel to lift a human and keep them airborne for 30 minutes. This need for 30 minutes of fuel would also increase the size of the jetpack. Then there are the questions of flight stability, safety and cost, all of which can have a big impact on whether a jetpack is practical.
So I still remain very skeptical on whether this company is really going to produce a “practical jetpack“. If you want to convince me otherwise, then release the engineering and performance data, and also let me see it fly – don’t just take the wraps off a snazzy looking full-scale mock up and say it will be flying “real soon”. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what appears at Oshkosh, Wisconsin on July 29.