The skies are so empty.
Remember The Jetsons on Cartoon Network? How the family of four would use silver bullet jet packs to cruise around town? Well, jetpacks are now decidedly real — but they're not as slim and practical as the ones on TV. In fact, Australian inventor David Mayman has flown the jetpack he built all over the world, but according to the Guardian, they're just not getting the attention you'd think.
"I did a flight around Sydney harbour a few years ago," Mayman told the newspaper. "I still remember flying around close enough to see the joggers and the people walking around the botanical area, and some of them did not look up. The jetpack is loud, so I promise you they heard me. But there I was, flying by on a jetpack, and they did not look up."
In a 2019 YouTube video, Mayman flies his pack around the harbor, mostly over water, which the Guardian says is because he hasn't yet figured out how to attach a parachute, and therefore won't fly over land. While yes, there is a small crowd gathered near the opera house, some of them taking photos, the rest of the people present seem to be helping with the launch and not just spectators. With large houses and condo buildings in the background you'd expect a huge, awestruck crowd to gather, but that just doesn't seem to be the case.
The main problem is almost certainly how impractical jetpacks still are. The Guardian describes an experience testing a jet pack, which weights about 90 pounds. Users must wear several layers of thick protective clothing to prevent burns, including from the super-hot exhaust of the pack itself. That's also why users keep their feet so straight in the air. If they didn't, they'd burn their feet.
Jetpacks run on kerosene, which is heavy and burns quickly. So far Mayman hasn't broken eight minutes of flight time, because that's how much he can reasonably carry. The safety record is also dubious. In 2020, prominent jetpack stunt pilot Vince Reffet died when his equipment malfunctioned during training.
The first jetpack flights were attempted back in the 1960s using a so-called "rocket belt" that weighed nearly 300 pounds and shot hot gas from nozzles, according to JSTOR. Mayman watched a pilot fly a pack in the 1984 Olympics, too, so the tech isn't exactly new.
It's hard to believe humans haven't latched onto solo flight in the way sci-fi and television would make you think we would. After all, jetpacks have captured our imagination in stories for decades. But it seems that until price, practicality and safety are sorted out, consumers will keep looking down.
Updated headline and story to clarify that Mayman has not complained about jetpack sales.
More on flight problems: Airlines Warn That New 5G Tech Could Mess Up Planes' Ability to Land Safely