Kiwi jetpack invention gets ready for domestic takeoff

By Jarrod Booker

The Martin Jetpack has generated significant buzz at a leading United States airshow. Photo / Martin Aircraft Company Limited
The Martin Jetpack has generated significant buzz at a leading United States airshow. Photo / Martin Aircraft Company Limited

The chance to fly a Kiwi-invented jetpack will be available in New Zealand early next year.

Almost a year to the day after it first got worldwide attention, the Martin Jetpack is back on show at the United States' annual EAA air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Christchurch's Martin Aircraft Company is also announcing plans to allow the public to try out a "low, slow" version.

Christchurch will be the location for the first business offering jetpack flights, and the company plans to expand with franchises around the world.

People will be able to fly a jetpack about a metre above the ground at no more than 10km/h in a carefully controlled outdoor area. The price will be around the same as for adventure activities such as bungy jumping.

It will be a far cry from flying at 100km/h, which is the capability planned for the jetpack that will eventually be sold to the public.

But Martin Aircraft Company chief executive Richard Lauder told the Herald that any of the 40 or so people who had already tried out the jetpack would say that even low and slow was "incredibly exciting".

Based on a concept developed in 1981 by Christchurch inventor Glenn Martin, the jetpack has attracted funding of almost $1.5 million, via the Government's Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Mr Martin said one of the most frequently asked questions had been, "When can I have a flight?" "To be able to fly solo in a fixed-wing aircraft can take 15 hours of flight training, but most people wanted to be able to learn to fly the jetpack in a few minutes," he said.

So the control and training systems were rebuilt from the ground up, and a range of people were brought in to try it, ranging from military-qualified pilots to complete novices.

"The result is a flight system where, with a couple of hours' training, [most people] can be free-flying the jetpack with high levels of confidence and safety," Mr Martin said.

The first Martin Jetpack Experience would be set up near the company's Christchurch base early next year.

THE DEVICE

Engine: A two-litre, V4 engine.
Range: About 50km.
Speed: Max 100km/h.
Pilot: Must weigh between 63.5kg and 108.9kg.
Cost: About $150,000 (depending on production volumes).
Uses: Initially offered to governments for border patrol, search and rescue, etc.

- NZ Herald

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