Rocket man rides mooted for Queenstown (with video)

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Queenstown, birthplace of bungy, is being eyed for a new adventure tourism first – mind-blowing solo jetpack rides. 

The Kiwi inventor behind a “Jetsons-like” personal flying machine is hunting for a financial partner to help kick-start a commercial operation based around his creation. 

Christchurch-based Glenn Martin – the brains behind Martin Aircraft Company’s device which can fly at 105kmh and go for 30 minutes – says Queenstown’s the obvious place to launch. 

Martin’s already known to have pitched to Queenstown-based interests and will again push the idea in the resort next Wednesday when he delivers an annual lecture hosted by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand. 

Martin estimates his company needs about $2 million from an investment partner – from there it would take nine months to get such a venture off the ground, he says. 

One option could be flights through somewhere like Shotover Canyon, but the most likely scenario would involve customers paying $215 for an hour-long session involving training, he says. 

“That will culminate in them flying solo with very high levels of safety and having an amazing experience. 

“We’re looking for an adventure tourism partner from a financial respect. Maybe it’s somebody experienced in tourism.” 

Demand will be high, Martin believes. 

“For every person who has asked to buy a jetpack we’ve probably got 100 who have said ‘Well, I don’t want to buy one, but can I fly one?’.” 

Martin claims his company has already developed a business model for what he hopes to call Jetpack Experience – and held secret test runs withregular punters in Christchurch. 

The sessions indicated people could only handle a few minutes of flying. 

“It’s not demanding physically but it is from an adrenalin point of view. When people land they’re shaking with excitement and need to go away and calm down.” 

Martin says any tourism-based operation will involve height and speed restrictions to guard against accidents. His company is aiming to develop the technology to a point where the average Joe can fly safely wherever they want. 

“We have an interesting quality assurance system at Martin Aircraft Company. If you develop something on the jetpack, a new part, you get to test-fly it. It focuses the mind.” 

Martin Jetpack has already floated the invention with the Civil Aviation Authority. CAA spokesman Bill Sommer confirms previous discussions with Martin and says any jetpack operation targeting tourists would be governed by planned new adventure aviation rules requiring CAA certification. 

Martin says his Queenstown lecture is as much about entrepreneurship as the jetpack and he’s primarily visiting on IPENZ’s behalf, rather than pitching his business idea. 

“But if someone is interested in talking, we won’t say no.” 

Martin, 50, first dreamed up the jetpack almost 30 years ago while at a pub with fellow Otago University students. 

He finally unveiled the Martin Jetpack in 2008 at an experimental aircraft show in the United States. Earlier this year, a $12 million joint-venture deal was signed with an aircraft company to make 500 jetpacks with the aim of selling them to emergency response organisations, aid groups, police and military.