Many of us 'super-hero' cinema buffs may have gleefully followed the action scene of the movie 'Kick Ass', where the protagonist takes up the ultimate weapon of a jet pack to befuddle his arch nemesis. And why shouldn't we ground dwelling folks be inspired by the likes of The Rocketeer and a slew of science fiction magazines? After all, personal air transportation remains the ever elusive Holy Grail for our nigh century old aviation technology. But in a silver lining, there have been very few adventurous individuals who have actually ventured into the efficient creation and credible flight of human jet packs. And among this selected few, one name can forever be ingrained in the pantheon of aviation, and he is Swiss pilot, aviation enthusiast and inventor Yves Rossy.
Rossy had a string of air laden trysts in his lifetime as an experienced pilot. But this time he really (and literally) notched it up to another level by competing in a formation flight alongside none other than two full fledged jet powered aircrafts (Albatross jets) over the mighty Swiss Alps. Now, you may ask how he did it? Well, the answer is of course in his custom made 54kg jet pack.
His personal yet advanced jet pack made the headlines long back in 2006, when he became the very first (and only) man to have a flight in his nigh futuristic jet-propelled wing system. The system incorporated a back pack along with its important component of light weight semi-rigid aeroplane-type carbon fiber wings (with a span of about 2.4 meters or 7.9 ft). Though, by 2010, the span had been reduced to 2m for better control. As for the fascinating power-train, it comprised of four Jet-Cat P200 jet engines, which in turn were highly modified from original kerosene based aircraft engines.
Coming to the safety factor of his progressive jet propelled wing system, Rossy had to wear a heat-resistant suit (analogous to that of a race driver), which would shield him from the harmful jet exhaust. Even the engines had to be coated with carbon fiber heat protection, while the nozzle was wound across the exhaust tail. As for mid air maneuvering, the system had been described as being highly receptive to the movements of the pilot. For this, according to Rossy, it was essential to keep his head and limb movement still during the exhilarating flight time.
Rossy's previous aerial exploits included the world record breaking (or rather creating) flight in 2006, which lasted for nearly six minutes and nine seconds in the municipality of Bex in Switzerland. He followed it up in 2008 with his equally momentous 9 minutes 7 seconds successful flight across the exalted English Channel, with a blistering top speed of 299 km/h (or 186 mph) during the crossing. Other illustrious feathers in his cap consist of successfully jetting across the Grand Canyon and attempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. As a matter of fact, his latest adrenaline fused endeavor with the jet planes was not even the first time he crossed the Alps in his customized jet pack.