The mainstream media is frothing at the mouth over the Martin Jetpack, which debuted yesterday to mixed reviews at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh.
On TV, ABC News and MSNBC were just two outlets I found that gave quality air time to what many are calling a "piano-sized contraption", but what really got me laughing this morning was the coverage from the usually stoic BBC. If you just read the headline on their web site, it appears we have all been transported back in time to December 17th, 1903:
"Human flying invention unveiledWhat I think is hysterical about the reporting of this story on the MSM is the continuous mentions of Jetpack flyers being like a "rocket man" and "zooming over their city like The Jetsons or Buck Rodgers." Give us real aviators a break, will ya?
Humans avoiding traffic by gliding through the air? Pigs might fly. Although, we might start seeing our pink four-legged friends taking to the sky soon, thanks to a new invention which has been unveiled in the US. The Martin jet pack can, in theory, fly an average-sized pilot about 30 miles in 30 minutes on a full 5-gallon (19-litre) tank of petrol. The piano-sized contraption costs $100,000 (£50,517) and was unveiled at AirVenture, the annual aviation convention of experimental aircraft at Oshkosh in Wisconsin."
The aviation media such as AOPA and Aero-News Network have been reporting this story more close to reality, saying not much is known about the company that plans to manufacture the Jetpacks and sell them for one hundred large. And at this blog, an aerospace engineer remains skeptical.
I tried very, very hard to get excited about this product. I have been using The Google every few days to find one positive review of the Jetpack, minus the aforementioned media frothing of course. So far, I'm coming up empty. But the one thing that has me bugged so far about this project is the following:
On paper, the idea of a personal Jetpack is great. Exit your suburban house, slip into a jet pack, and blast off effortlessly over the clogged freeways below. You return gracefully to Earth and drop the pack and yourself into your reserved parking spot, making your morning commute a thing of beauty. But after scouring the Internets for ANY footage showing this thing flying on it's own, I came up far short. Every video of the Martin Jetpack shows it hovering in a very wobbly manner a few feet off the ground, so close in fact that the two men on either side of it can easily keep it steady by HOLDING ON to the port and starboard handles. This includes the widely-distributed youtube video of yesterday's debut, in which 2,000 people stood by in Aeroshell Square and watched this thing wallow around while being righted – so it seemed – by the two guys holding on to it. One word...boring.As an aviation journalist and blogger, I expect to hear from supporters of the jetpack for that last comment..and this I welcome. If ANYONE has video of this thing flying say the length of an airport without being kept steady by a couple of crew members right and left, I want to see it. Because if the Martin Jetpack cannot fly without those two dudes keeping it upright, there is absolutely no chance this thing will ever sell.
But as an aviation marketing professional, you sure have to give Glenn Martin and his crew kudos for getting the media so worked up over this. What is pure genius is how – despite it not even flying on its own – the national network news editors still sent the Airventure debut footage out over their network distribution systems. You'd think those usually hard-nosed news editors would have taken one look at those two guys holding this thing from possibly spinning out of control and quickly deleted this story as hogwash.