Per­sonal fly­ing ma­chine

Jet packs, the ul­ti­mate comic book fan­tasy ma­chine, have been made. but if we can’t even drive safely, can we fly safely?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INBOX - by ja­son god frey Ja­son God­frey can be seen host­ing The LINK on Life In­spired (Astro B.yond Ch 728).

YOU know how some things seem like a good idea un­til they’re ac­tu­ally re­alised? Things like com­mu­nism, high-waisted pants, and mak­ing a movie out of John Carter prob­a­bly all seemed like good ideas on pa­per (well, maybe not the high-waisted pants, too un­com­fort­able!) but didn’t do so well when ac­tu­alised.

This is what I’m think­ing af­ter read­ing that the Martin Air­craft com­pany in Christchurch, New Zealand could be as lit­tle as six months away from pro­duc­ing a jet pack.

Yes. A jet pack! The fu­ture is right freaking now!

Jet packs, in the form of the back­pack that en­ables an in­di­vid­ual to fly, were first pro­posed in 1920. It’s only taken roughly a cen­tury to de­velop the tech­nol­ogy, but we fi­nally may be on the cusp of the Jet Pack Era! Yay? Nay.

At first, a work­ing jet pack sounds like all sorts of awe­some. Ev­ery child has dreamt of strap­ping on a back­pack ca­pa­ble of jet propul­sion and zip­ping through the air with the ease of a bird (and the pol­lu­tant out­put of a small jet – ad­mit­tedly th­ese childhood fan­tasies are prob­a­bly not very eco-friendly, but who cares? Jet pack!).

In­deed the in­fan­tile urge to cre­ate a fully func­tion­ing jet pack is what re­cently led an Aus­tralian man to spend US$15,000 (RM50,000) to build his own jet pack – al­beit a wa­ter-pow­ered one. Danch Lee ad­mits that he spent a “phe­nom­e­nal” amount of time think­ing about how to make his jet pack dream hap­pen.

Lee’s gizmo can achieve heights of nine me­tres and re­mains “teth­ered” to the wa­ter via a tube (that is needed to pump wa­ter to the pack to cre­ate propul­sion).

This is a far cry from the jet pack that Boba Fett uses in Re­turn Of The Jedi that gave so many of us our first glimpse of fly­ing through space with the great­est of ease, or the more con­tem­po­rary Iron Man where Robert Downey Jr is ba­si­cally wear­ing the ul­ti­mate jet pack com­plete with mis­siles. Then there is Jarvis (Just A Rather Very In­tel­li­gent Sys­tem), the au­tonomously sen­tient AI helper that is so tech­no­log­i­cally as­tound­ing.

But it would seem that Martin Air­craft has brought ev­ery lit­tle boy that much closer to their childhood dream of jet pack­ing, so why am I not ex­cited? Al­low me to pro­vide an ex­am­ple.

Rush­ing through the crowded streets the other day, I found my­self dodg­ing around peo­ple like they were py­lons. I stepped onto the street to avoid one per­son and ap­par­ently stepped in front of another man who slammed right into my shoul­der so hard, I felt the hard edge of his teeth.

Now, I don’t know if he was smil­ing when he ran into me, but he lay on the side­walk, his legs pad­dling through the air like spin­ning tyres on a newly over­turned ve­hi­cle, cov­er­ing his mouth with his hands. That’s how I knew for cer­tain he got me with his teeth.

I started to of­fer to help him up when he re­gained his com­po­sure, if not all his teeth, and jumped to his feet, speed­ing away yelling back over his shoul­der at me. I sup­pose run­ning into me with his teeth was quite em­bar­rass­ing and, un­der­stand­ably, he wanted to put the in­ci­dent be­hind him.

Em­bar­rass­ment aside, the point is, this guy ran into me on the street. With his teeth! Peo­ple can barely walk on the street with­out slam­ming into each other, can you imag­ine if we strapped on jet packs and started fly­ing all over the place? It would be com­plete anarchy!

Peo­ple get hit by cars and they only have to look left and right. Imag­ine if we had to look up and down too? Chaos. Com­plete and ut­ter chaos would en­sue as peo­ple jet pack into each other, ca­reen off build­ings, and come skid­ding to fiery halts in restau­rant pa­tios. Al­fresco din­ing would be­come a high-risk ac­tiv­ity.

And don’t give me the, “Peo­ple would learn how to use jet packs prop­erly” ar­gu­ment. Have you seen peo­ple drive lately?

Martin Air­craft states that their jet pack could be used for first re­spon­ders. For fire­fight­ers, or med­i­cal per­son­nel to get to vic­tims in hard to reach places. Which would make them re­ally use­ful when you think about it, be­cause who else is go­ing to put out that fire you start when you crash your jet pack into a bill­board?

And of course, re­mov­ing your car­cass from the said bill­board will be a snap us­ing the same gad­get.

Hon­estly, the only ap­pli­ca­tion I can see for them is clean­ing up the mess made by other peo­ple us­ing jet packs. Un­til I’m saved by a per­son wear­ing one, I’m firmly on the side of “Jet packs are great in childhood fan­tasies, but not so great in the real world”.

It should also be noted that every­body’s favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett, jet-packs him­self into the side of a barge and into the mouth of the rav­en­ous Sar­lacc.

If jet packs are in­vented any­time soon, I’ll be the one wear­ing a “Jet Packs Killed Boba Fett” T-shirt.

Ex­plo­sive cre­ation: Fly­ing with jet packs may seem like a dream come true, but can you imag­ine the risk of ac­ci­dents?

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