Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. And it’s not Superman either. It’s your local bank manager on his way to the office. The Martin Jetpack might look like a particularly cumbersome, 250lb drum kit attached to a man in a jumpsuit, but this time next year, it could be the transport of choice for frazzled commuters tired of spending their journey to work with their face in another person’s armpit.
The machine is the brainchild of New Zealander Glenn Martin, who’s apparently devoted the last 30 years of his life to developing it. Though billed as a jetpack, it isn’t actually a jetpack at all (‘jetpack’ just sounds cool). The power is actually generated by two piston engine fans which can propel the contraption forward at speeds of up to 186mph. Theoretically, the craft is capable of flying the average-sized pilot 30 miles in 30 minutes on a full tank of fuel (5 gallons).
Martin unveiled his invention before a crowd of thousands at a recent Wisconsin air show. His 16-year-old son Harrison played guinea pig, and was strapped into the device, which rose 3 feet above the ground for 45 seconds, before touching down again. The ever-optimistic Martin reportedly said: ‘Wow, that went better than expected. People will look back on this as a moment in history.’ No doubt he was also relieved that his son hadn’t returned to earth in a fireball.
The jetpack is designed to conform to the Federal Aviation Administration’s definition of an ultra light vehicle (less than 115kg and capable of carrying only one passenger) so - scarily - it won’t require a licence to fly it. In one year’s time, the potential death trap, sorry - miracle of aviation technology - could be yours for £50k.
Although the prospect of avoiding the clammy hordes en route to the office sounds very attractive, what concerns us is the potential for carnage when joyriders and boy racers get their grubby little hands on one of these. And that’s not to mention the environmental impact. Call us cynical, but in an age when rising fuel costs and concerns over green issues are putting the screws on the aviation industry, we’re not sure that Martin’s idea is a flyer.