London - Ever since James Bond used one to escape the bad guys in Thunderball, many have yearned to strap on a jet pack to soar away from their troubles.
Now that dream could become a reality after a pilot demonstrated a one-man flying machine over the Thames in London on Wednesday.
The device carried him about 100ft into the air, in scenes reminiscent of Sean Connery’s adventures in the 1965 Bond film.
The four-minute flight saw the pilot take off by the Emirates Air Line cable car in East London and make two short trips back and forth. The man at the controls was David Mayman, an Australian ex-commercial pilot who is the mastermind behind the JB-10 jet pack.
Upon landing he was met with cheers and congratulations from the jet pack’s designers and engineers, and said: “It feels absolutely amazing, awesome. It’s freedom.”
Commuters hoping to use one to beat the jams, however, should note that its current maximum flight time is around ten minutes.
With its top horizontal flying speed put at a cheek-wobbling 100mph, that would give it a theoretical range of about 16 miles.
Mr Mayman’s version was powered by two £25 000 (about R425 000) turbine engines burning jet fuel, but he is working on an electric one which could go on sale as early as 2019 for £196 000 – around the same as one of 007’s Aston Martins.
Mr Mayman, who has completed more than 400 test flights, plans to start development of the electric version in April after a £300 000 crowdfunding investment.
Investors have drawn comparisons with the early flying suits created by Tony Stark for his Iron Man persona in the Marvel superhero comics and films.
However, the scenes in London were far more akin to the opening sequence of Thunderball, when Bond puts on a jet pack to dodge the villains and rendezvous with his French contact.
Perhaps surprisingly, the jet pack used in the Bond movie was a real one, a Bell Rocket Belt.
And in 1984 a man in another Bell Rocket Belt took to the air at the opening of the LA Olympics.
Mr Mayman and his team hope to make jet pack flight a reality of city skies. In fact there is something of a space race going on with several firms, including the Martin Aircraft company of New Zealand, developing their own versions.
Lucy Sharp, of Seedrs Investment, the firm behind the fundraising for the electric jet pack, said: “This has been a dream in the making for David for a decade. He’s done over 400 test flights and they’ve all gone smoothly but it is jet fuel on his back so it can be dangerous. It retails at around the price of an Aston Martin and it is the ultimate boy’s toy. It’ll be a choice – either Aston Martin or jet pack to work today?”