Why The FAA Does Not Regulate Jetpacks

I have always wanted a jetpack.  From one of my favorite West Wing exchanges (among many) in "The West Wing: The Warfare of Genghis Khan (#5.13)" (2004):

Leo McGarry: My generation never got the future it was promised… Thirty-five years later, cars, air travel is exactly the same. We don’t even have the Concorde anymore. Technology stopped.
Josh Lyman: The personal computer…
Leo McGarry: A more efficient delivery system for gossip and pornography? Where’s my jet pack, my colonies on the Moon?

Our infamous friend the jetpack is explored in today’s WSJ in an article titled The Jetpack: An Idea Whose Time Has Never Come, but Won’t Go AwayBuried down deep in the article is the insight that the FAA does not regulate jetpacks since, according to FAA spokesman Les Dorr “Thirty seconds is not sufficient to be considered a flight.”

My good friend Bruce Wyman pointed out to me that – according to Wikipedia – “The first flight, by Orville, of 120 feet (36.5 m) in 12 seconds, at a speed of only 6.8 mph over the ground, was recorded in a famous photograph.”  How ironic – I guess the FAA wouldn’t consider the first flight to be the first flight.

And – just to show that US inventors don’t have a non-monopoly on jetpacks, @tonybain pointed me to an article on a jetpack being invented in New Zealand by Glenn Martin.  Jetpack innovation apparently knows no geographic bounds, but per Leo McGarry, has been a long time coming.

  • How about either this Water Jetpack — http://www.maximizingprogress.org/2009/01/water-j… — or this Jetman rig — http://www.maximizingprogress.org/2008/09/jet-man

    • What's especially compelling to me about the aquato jetpack are two things:

      (1) Fuel Supply — Unlike carry-all jetpacks, the working mass is plentiful and you could go for hours with only the minimal trade-off of a tether-tail. The rugged off-the-shelf fire engine pumping technology embedded in the floating support boat will work as long as there's diesel or other fuel to burn.

      (2) Failure Modes — F'ing up with one of those unstable, ornery, touchy wearable bombs… er, jetpacks seems like a formula for face-planting terra firma the hard way. They call it "terminal velocity" for multiple reasons. Things go wrong with the water-borne aquato jetpack and you plummet a limited number of meters and into into a relatively soft watery bath.

      I agree, Brad, this is potentially as big a deal as jetskis, perhaps bigger.

  • From my one experience observing a jetpack flight at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, jetpackers do need FAA clearance to take off anywhere near an ariport. Presumably, landing does not require clearance, since there's not much discretion in the matter.

  • Bill Mosby

    I prefer to think of the systems in use today as rocket packs. Bell, I believe it was, had a jet pack in development 20 or 30 years ago that used a Williams Research turbofan and had an endurance of more like 20 or 30 minutes. Now, that would be flying. Of course, the system weighed a bit more than today's systems. And I wouldn't want to be wearing one if something went drastically wrong with the turbomachinery. And that type of engine would be much more expensive than an H2O2 rocket. Still, a great dream.

  • Aziz Grieser

    If you follow this link to my blog, you'll see a cool video of what I think is the best of the jet back innovators, from the Go-Fast guys. Best of all its from the test pilot's perspective who broke his leg in the process. The dude has some brass balls. The New Zealand one that you referred to is simply too much expensive equipment.

    My hobby is to build the first affordable human-powered-flying-bike. Sounds crazy, yes, but if you follow the link I provided, you'll see that Nasa built two iterative models, and the team's amateur cyclist pedaled it and flew across the English channel (30 miles). Actually, I'm collaborating with two or three folks around the nation on this.

  • Pingback: Popular Keywords on Religion, Spirituality and Blogs here | govern point()

  • Pingback: auto insurance cheap()

  • Pingback: car insurance comparisons()