Jetpacks have long been a fascinating means of transportation in science fiction novels and movies. It seems to be a very futuristic device as well. However, instead of waiting for the future, New Zealand prepares to launch a jetpack by 2014 with pre-orders coming in.
Reuters (File photo of U.S. jetpack) Jetpacks have long been a fascinating means of transportation in science fiction novels and movies. Instead of waiting for the future, New Zealand prepares to launch a jetpack by 2014 with pre-orders coming in.
Aviation regulators from around the world had dismissed New Zealand's jetpack as a "flight of fancy" that didn't need special rules to guide its operation. However, the planned jetpack launch in 2014 has officials scratching their heads as the jetpack creators in New Zealand revealed that the jetpack can fly up to 7,000 feet in the air with a speed of 50 miles per hour.
Martin Aircraft chief executive, Peter Coker, said the jetpack is like a "motorcycle in the sky." He has spent 30 years developing the jetpack in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Martin jetpack is not powered by rockets unlike what people think based on science fiction books and novels.
The motorcycle in the sky relies on a gasoline engine with two fans. The latest prototype of the Martin jetpack, P12, is a sleeker version of initial jetpack models. The new P12 prototype can bring the pilot to new heights with a maximum half-hour flying time.
New Zealand is serious in its desire to make jetpacks a common sight in its airspace despite the expensive price of over $150,000 per unit. More than a dozen buyers have reserved their own jetpacks as soon as Martin Aircraft announces they are ready. Most of the customers who have already paid for the device are from outside New Zealand.
Rex Kenny, special flight operations and recreational aviation manager for Civil Aviation in New Zealand, has consulted the aviation rule book to categorise the Martin jetpack. He has the power to decide to whether jetpacks should be allowed in New Zealand airspace. According to his evaluation, the jetpack is neither a helicopter nor an aircraft.
Mr Kenny said it was even a mistake to call the Martin jetpack a "jetpack" because the device is technically a ducted fan. He classified the jetpack as a lift device, since it is not powered by a rocket. Mr Kenny said the microlight category was the closest to the jetpack when he studied the rule book. A microlight can hold one or two passengers.
The jetpack's name was an easier issue to tackle but there are other more difficult matters to discuss before the jetpack takes its first official flight in 2014. The safety of jetpack pilots and emergency landings were some of the issues that came up as Martin Aircraft prepares to launch. Mr Kenny said liability insurance should be required for jetpack pilots.
If the jetpack in New Zealand will be classified as a microlight aircraft, future owners will have to undergo regular testing for them to be granted a licence to fly the personal aircraft.
The matter of allowing jetpacks to fly over built-up areas remains to be discussed, with the latest jetpack prototypes having been granted permission for pilot test flights. The jetpack permitted in manned test flights cannot be flown more than 25 feet above water or more than 20 feet above ground.
Initial talks with aviation regulators in Australia over possible issues related to jetpacks are ongoing. Peter Gibson, a spokesman for Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, said it remains unclear what airspace jetpacks can fly in. The flight requirements for jetpacks including the paperwork were also not yet settled.
(File photo of U.S. jetpack) Jetpacks have long been a fascinating means of transportation in science fiction novels and movies. Instead of waiting for the future, New Zealand prepares to launch a jetpack by 2014 with pre-orders coming in.