Movies from the ’80s and ’90s left the American public with certain cruel desires for seemingly unattainable things – the hover skateboard from Back to the Future II, a dinosaur island à la Jurassic Park, the jetpack from Rocketeer.
During the last few years, however, the jetpack has been dangled in front of us as a possible reality, and another report made the rounds Monday, suggesting every girl and boy should start practicing those in-flight high-fives. Sadly, it’s still not quite time to start clearing out space in the garage, but it’s always worth revisiting our current state of jetpack-affairs.
The company trying to make this dream an everyman reality is Martin Aircraft (no relation to Lockheed-Martin), a New Zealand-based outfit. So far, they’ve been mainly developing their device for military and emergency-services groups, but the London Telegraph reported in February that they were beginning production of a personal-use jetpack and aimed to be churning out 500 per year. In March came the next step: Martin Aircraft announced a $12-million joint venture (with an unnamed company) to build an overseas jetpack factory (in an unnamed place).
According to the local Kiwi paper, by last month that deal had then led to 3,500 orders from emergency response organizations, police, military and “private consortiums.” In September the head of Martin Aircraft, Glenn Martin, also announced that his company was negotiating a lease to build a space-age theme park called “JetPack Experience,” where the adventurous of heart could take at 10-minute flight for about $215 rather than shelling out $100,000 for their own. (New TIME story in the works: The Case Against Jetpack Ownership.)
The basic stats: The jetpacks would, as mentioned, cost around $100,000 and allow the flier to travel about 30 miles in 30 minutes on a full 5-gallon tank of gas. In tests, the packs have gone up to 1.5 miles off the ground at speeds of up to 60 mph. This is a departure, in terms of price and performance, from the similar products a few other companies have produced. The Jet Pack T-73 produced by Jet Pack International, for instance, taps out at 9 minutes and 11 miles and costs $200,000.
Essentially, most jetpack devices have so far been relegated to the world of publicity stunts rather than commercial consumption. And Martin’s strides aside, it remains a stretch to imagine that any toy—as it stands, jet packs are classified by the FAA as recreational and restricted to non-urban areas—costing more than $5,000, much less $50,000, could be generally accessible. At least we’ll have the movies in the meantime.
– By Katy Steinmetz