The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Flying golf cart keeps jetpack dream alive

The Martin Jetpack's potential to become an airborne golf cart is helping keep founder Glenn Martin's dreams for flying machine alive, says the aircraft maker's chief executive.

The Christchurch-based Martin Aircraft Company has teamed up with sunglasses manufacturer Oakley and world number five golfer Bubba Watson to market the golfing applications of the New Zealand-developed jetpack.

A two minute YouTube video shows Watson talking-up the machine amid scenic clips of it flying above a South Island golf course.

The jetpack maker has been more focused in recent years on the professional "first responder" applications such as search and rescue and fire fighting.

That was one of the reasons for Glenn Martin's sudden resignation from the firm's board last year, just three months after its listing on the Australian stock exchange.

Martin, who began working on the jetpack in 1981, told the Business Herald last year that it had always been his dream to build a personal jetpack that everyday people could use.

"I haven't left the company - the company has left me," he said.

Martin Aircraft boss Peter Coker said the BW-Air flying golf cart would help make Martin's dreams a reality.

"We thought this was a great way of showing the public that not only are we concentrating on saving human lives and looking at the future of first responders, but also at having fun," he said.

"We're only restricted by the imagination on how you might use the jetpack."

Like the regular jetpack, it will be able to fly to 1000m at speeds of up to 74 km/h.

But it will also carry the various accoutrements of golfing such as clubs and balls.

In the YouTube video, Watson said golfers were always looking to "speed up play" and the jetpack would allow them to do that.

"The biggest advantage I see is the bird's eye view," he said. "It's going to give you a perspective that you've been missing."

It could be a while before jetpacks become a regular sight at golf courses, however.

"It is an aircraft - you do need a pilots license to flight it," said Coker, a former Royal Air Force pilot.

"You would be flying it in areas where the regulatory authorities will want to have some knowledge around it first. I don't think it'll be happening overnight, let's put it like that."

He said Martin Aircraft remained on track to make its first deliveries of first responder aircraft during the second-half of this year and personal jetpacks in 2017 or 2018.

The company has previously said the first responder version would sell for US$250,000 ($354,000).

"Our intention will be to drive the cost down when it comes to the personal jetpacks," Coker said. "It won't need to have the same versatility and the same capabilities."

- NZ Herald

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