“I want to fly.” It’s every child’s ultimate fantasy. And now, the reality of flying high above sea level, propelled by a jet pack and unencumbered by parachute or artificial wings, is attainable, by the half-hour rental. A handful of outfitters are approved to offer the experience to the public. Less than a month after opening to the public, Fort Lauderdale company Rocketman is poised for aggressive expansion.
“The dream of personal flight” is coming to life thanks to Dania Beach-based JetLev Technologies, which created a prototype water-powered jet pack in 2008 and finalized a commercial release model in 2011. Operating on similar engineering principles as a Jet Ski, the jet propulsion system uses water from hoses to create the thrust that lifts the wearer skyward, with a flexible supply hose tethered to the fuel source and controlled by throttle, flight controls, and flyer body commands.
Sunny seaside destinations with warm, calm waters are the perfect testing markets for the JetLev water jet pack. It’s been available to buy at a price around $130,000 US since 2009, but the latest version is going into resort destinations from Florida to Hawaii.
In addition to their current location on Bayview Drive across from the Galleria, Rocketman is expected to launch out of the Hard Rock Seminole soon, with additional locations being scouted elsewhere in South Florida and in the Bahamas. And what is it about this experience that has people lining up to try it? Of course, there's the eternally desirable prospect of personal flight, but hang-gliding and parasailing also approximate that. This is a different sort of flight, though.
It's powerful, precision-controlled, and intense. Though the staff are incredibly attentive, with one person talking each flyer through every moment of the experience through a state-of-the-art headset, while a second staffer cruises just a few yards behind on a jet ski, the flyer is still truly the one controlling the water jets, and therefore, the height and direction. Strapped into a floatation backpack/chair, the flyer uses right and left handlebars to move up and down, while turning their head right or left to change course. The handles are extremely sensitive: raising them by an inch will cause the flyer to gain a foot or two of vertical height.
No matter how confidently or brashly a new flyer enters the experience, they're still going to go through a trial-and-error period of jerky starts, graceless face-first falls into the water, and panicky spins caused by dropping one hand low and causing unequal power between the right and left jets. By the second 15 minutes, though, a significant number of new flyers are "walking on water" or even getting several feet high in the air.
And the feeling is addictive. Every first-time flyer goes away understanding how they could have controlled the jetpack better, flown a little smoother, gone a little higher...in short, come a little bit closer to being that super-action-hero from the movies. Rocket Man offers six different flight experiences ranging from $99 to $4,000 for a full day. Visit RideRocketman.com to learn more.
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