Check out this bloke flying his jetpack around the Statue of Liberty. That’s right folks, it’s for real. The futuristic fantasy toy has been reborn, and this time its makers reckon she’s a goer.
Australian inventor and pilot David Mayman demonstrated the device earlier this month in New York City. Strapped to his jetpack for its maiden flight, he flew safely for an extended period around the famous US landmark.
He is the first person to “prove the viability of personal flying devices”, according to his team at JetPack Aviation.
“Mayman’s flight was the culmination of a 10-year challenge to design and build a light-weight, wearable flying device that will allow people to take to the skies,” the company said in a statement.
Speaking to Triple J this week after the YouTube clip of the stunt (above) went viral, the Aussie aeronaut said the flight was just the beginning.
“People tell me that I’ve come so far in 10 years, but we’re at day one of another 20-year adventure.”
Mayman says flying a jetpack is difficult to describe, as it’s not like any other aircraft, and that he breathed a “huge sigh of relief” when his feet landed back on the ground.
“I sat down and had a beer and thought, ‘OK, that’s done, what’s next?” he said.
The concept of a personal jetpack, or rocketpack, has of course been depicted in science fiction since even before jet engines came into regular use.
The first operational jetpacks – which Mayman’s device bears a striking similarity to – appeared in the 1960s as a product of propulsion development for the US space programme. However, the technology, known as a ‘rocketbelt’ was never truly viable due to the amount of fuel required to make it work (they only flew for about 10 seconds) and the immense inherent danger to the pilot of mechanical failure.
It remained relegated to air shows, sports extravaganzas and James Bond movies before sort of fading into the annals of ‘remember those’ nostalgia by the late 80s.
Fast forward 30 years, and there has been a revival in the idea. Despite some admirable efforts, though, such as a water jet version and the aircraft launched personal jet device flown by Redbull daredevil Yves Rossy across the Grand Canyon (see video, below) and English Channel, they are not really the kind of jetpacks kids and adults alike have been dreaming of all these years.
Now, Mayman reckons he’s cracked it with what he says is currently the world’s only true jetpack. His JB-9 jetpack is powered by scaled-down airline engines and has no wings or other aerodynamic aids.
According to JetPack Aviation, the JB-9 can fly for up to 10 minutes, reach an altitude of 3,000 metres and fly at over 100kph, although Mayman certainly didn’t dare push those heady limits on this flight.
On the jetpack’s prospects of being a commercial reality, Mayman cautioned, “[They are] never going to be as cheap as a mid-range car.”