Oshkosh (WI) – It’s up up and away for Glenn Martin as he showed off his experimental jetpack at the annual EAA AirVenture festival in Oshkosh Wisconsin. The “Martin Jetpack” can fly for several minutes and can cruise at up to 60 miles-per-hour. For the truly adventurous, the soon to be commercialized contraption can soar to 8000 feet, however Martin hasn’t actually tested it more than a few feet off the ground. Martin hopes to sell the jetpack for $100,000 a pop.
The 250-pound jetpack is billed as “The World’s First Practical Jetpack” and lasts much longer than previous jetpacks. In the past you’ve seen jetpacks drop into major football games and other events, but those only have enough fuel for approximately 20 seconds of flight – this one can go for up to thirty minutes thanks to the five gallon fuel tank. A gas-powered V-4 piston engine powers two ducted fans that sit behind and to the side of the ‘rider’. The engine provides 200 horsepower and the jetpack itself produces approximately 600 pounds of thrust.
Mr. Martin says he’ll be doing some high-altitude flying with the jetpack in the coming months and promises to take the gadget up to 500 feet. Now that would be one hell of a ride. The controls on the jetpack are fairly basic. A joystick by one hand controls side to side and forward and backward flight, while a lever on the other hand varies the altitude. Safety-wise, a cushioned base helps the would-be Buzz Lightyear cope with hard landings and don’t worry there’s even a ballistic parachute if things get really hairy.
Martin has been secretly working on this jetpack part-time for more than twenty years. Recently he acquired some venture capital which allowed him to devote all his time to development. In all, he’s gone through eleven prototypes and eventually hopes to sell 10-20 units at $100,000 each over the next year. Buyers will have to endure approximately 15 hours of flight training spread over ten days to procure the jetpack – you wouldn’t want people to kill themselves on their first flight would you?
The jetpack will probably be classified as an experimental airplane by the FAA much like ultra-lights and paragliders. Pilots will only be able to fly the jetpack recreationally at remote airports and won’t be able to fly to regular airports.
Interestingly enough, Martin’s wife was the first test pilot as the early prototypes could only maintain altitude for passengers weighing up to 130 pounds. The unit was tethered to the group, just in case it really took off. Since then Mr. Martin has also taught his teenage son how to fly the jetpack. Now you’d think that would be one hell of a story to tell your high-school friends, but the son was sworn to secrecy.
Mr. Martin’s demonstration at AirVenture only last a few minutes with him hovering just a few feet above the ground. His crew members were holding the sides of the jetpack to prevent it from drifting into the crowd. Despite the low level demo, the crowd was still wowed and one person yelled out what everyone else was thinking – “I want one!”