In humankind’s continuing struggle to achieve personal flight, a man wearing a jetpack was injured in a crash during a technical demonstration in Denver, Colorado, on the morning of April 8. He had reportedly flown 20 feet up with his jetpack before things went awry and was sent plummeting back down to earth.
The 27-year-old vice president of Jet Pack International, Nick Macomber, was conducting a test flight of a hydrogen peroxide-fueled jetpack on the property of Go Fast, a Denver energy drink company, when the crash occurred. Macomber has had more than 600 flights with the jetpack under his belt and was doing a routine test run, although he was not wearing a helmet this time around.
During the flight, he had lost control of the jetpack and fell from 20 feet, landing roughly on his unprotected head. The ill-advised lack of protective gear during the jetpack crash warranted an emergency trip to the nearby hospital. Twenty-seven stitches were required to treat lacerations on the right side of his head.
“The guy was bleeding, he had head wounds where he had blood gushing on his face, he was spitting out blood, it looks like he had landed on his knees and he couldn’t get up,” said Alison McCoy, a worker next door and a witness of the jetpack crash.
While his injuries may have looked severe, he was released from the hospital in the afternoon of the very next day. The wounds Macomber sustained from the jetpack crash to his head, face, and torso are mostly superficial, although he also suffered burns to his arms and legs, as well as an ankle injury.
“No, he should’ve been wearing a helmet. But he’s so good, and again, this was just a test flight,” said Troy Widgery, CEO of Jet Pack International.
He may have been lucky, considering that a jetpack currently can fly as high as 150 feet in the air and reach speeds of up to 80 miles an hour for around 30 seconds. Widgery stated that modifications were made to their jetpack and it was indeed a control issue that caused the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had sent investigators to the scene after the jetpack crash to look into the incident. The FAA has always been concerned about jetpack development throughout the years, yet regulation has been confusing at best. For the most part, they’ve classified jetpacks under the experimental ultralight category like with the Martin Jetpack, although that uses fans instead of rockets.
Macomber was specifically testing the Apollo jetpack, sponsored by the Apollo Gum Company. It had previously been flown in places such as the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, Ireland, just a month before, as well as in a television show in China in August 2015. In the latter, Macomber flew the jetpack up to 112 feet in the air while clearly wearing a helmet, despite having no crash.
Aside from Jet Pack International, the New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company had been chasing the dream of personal flight for years. However, while the company does indeed have a functioning jetpack on hand, former CEO Glenn Martin had left the company he founded due to what seems to be philosophical differences. The Martin Jetpack is currently being developed for firefighters and rescue personnel, which is far from Martin’s vision of a jetpack that anyone can fly.
Amid self-driving cars and “hoverboards,” the jetpack is an idea that has persisted for decades. It has been kept alive by inventors and dreamers, despite doubts and even ridicule. In a time when virtual reality has become an actual reality, perhaps this sci-fi concept may not be that far off after all.
[Image via AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda]