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"Jet Packs Finally on Sale"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jet Packs Finally on Sale
By Erik Sofge
Popular Mechanics

To some extent, everyone's in the market for a jet pack. But since Bell Labs
built the first rocket belt (the correct, if less exciting, name) in 1953,
potential buyers have been stymied by two problems: Rocket belts aren't for
sale, and even prototypes run on modern-day fuel (as opposed to whatever the
Jetsons use) - which means rocket belts can weigh upwards of 100 pounds,
with only enough fuel to stay aloft for under a minute. Now, a pair of
companies have solved one of these problems - rocket belts are for sale.

Mexican start-up Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (TAM) offers its
custom-built TAM Rocket Belt for $250,000, which includes flight and
maintenance training. On a full tank of hydrogen peroxide the belt weighs
124 to 139 pounds (the bigger the pilot, the bigger the belt), and provides
30 seconds of flight. TAM's sole competitor is Jetpack Inter-national, a
Colorado-based company that sells what it calls "the world's longest-flying
jet pack." Technically speaking, it's true - the hydrogen-peroxide-burning
Jet Pack H202 can stay in the air for 33 seconds, 3 seconds longer than
TAM's model. The H202 weighs 139 pounds, and is competitively priced at
$155,000, flight classes and all.

Jetpack International founder Troy Widgery is the first to point out the
drawbacks of current short-flight rocket belts. "If something goes wrong,
you can get killed," Widgery says. "Thirty-three seconds of fuel makes an
inexperienced pilot twitchy." The solution? Ditch the rocket belt, and build
a bona fide jet pack (okay, jet belt). Widgery plans to release the T73
Turbine by the end of the year; it's a $200,000 model that will burn jet
fuel, allowing it to stay airborne for 19 minutes. Not to be outdone, TAM is
working on a propane-burning jet belt, though it hasn't said when it will be
available. While swapping inert hydrogen peroxide for propane or Jet-A fuel
has obvious drawbacks, jet belts would be, for many, a childhood dream come
true. "With 19 minutes you can take things slower," Widgery says. "You
aren't spending the whole flight thinking about where to land." We'll take
his word for it.

Top speed: 70 mph
Flight time: 33 seconds
Price: $155,000

Top speed: More than 60 mph
Flight time: 30 seconds
Price: $250,000


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