Jetpacks were thought to only exist in fictional media but now, they have been made real. However, they’re not as slim and practical as the ones on TV. In fact, Australian inventor David Mayman has flown the jetpack he built all over the world, but according to The Guardian, he can’t seem to sell any.
“I did a flight around Sydney harbor a few years ago,” Mayman told the newspaper. “I still remember flying around close enough to see the joggers and the people walking around the botanical area, and some of them did not look up. The jetpack is loud, so I promise you they heard me. But there I was, flying by on a jetpack, and they did not look up.”
Mayman flies his pack around the harbor, mostly over water, which the Guardian says is because he hasn’t yet figured out how to attach a parachute, and therefore won’t fly over land. It is shown in a YouTube video that was released in 2019. There is a small crowd gathered near the opera house, some of them taking photos, the rest of the people seem to be helping with the launch and not just spectators. With large houses and condo buildings in the background, you’d expect a huge, awestruck crowd to gather. However, this is not replicated in reality.
The main issue is the impracticality of jetpacks. The jetpack weighs about 90 pounds. Users must wear multiple layers of thick protective clothing to prevent burns, including from the super-hot exhaust of the pack itself. Therefore, the feet need to be straight while on the jetpack to avoid burning.
Jetpacks are fueled by kerosene, which is heavy and burns fast. So far Mayman hasn’t broken eight minutes of flight time, because that’s how much he can logically carry. The safety record is also dismal. In 2020, prominent jetpack stunt pilot Vince Reffet died when his equipment malfunctioned during training.
The first jetpack flights were attempted back in the 1960s using a so-called “rocket belt” that weighed nearly 300 pounds and shot hot gas from nozzles, according to JSTOR. So, the technology is not entirely new.
It’s hard to believe humans aren’t as enthusiastic about solo flight in the way sci-fi and television would have you believe, but safety measures and other practicalities need to be sorted out before it can become a common reality.
Update: the headline has been updated to reflect the fact that Mr. Mayman has not explicitly complained about jetpack sales.