Mac Montandon is writing a book about the history of jetpacks, due to be published by Da Capo Press next year. He wrote the following report for Boing Boing.
Well, the convention was, of course, totally fun. I drove up from Brooklyn for research for the jetpacks book I'm writing. My friends Jofie and Paul and my three-year-old daughter, Oona, went with me. Paul took some great photos, I'm attaching three of my favorites here: the first is Eric Scott flying for GoFast!; the second shows the work of Minneapolis Rocketman Ky Michaelson and the last, as you probably guessed, is Oona trying on a mini 'pack.
The second annual Rocketbelt Convention was held this past weekend as part of the Thunder of Niagara air show on the Air Force's reserves base in Niagara Falls. So when GoFast! pilot Eric Scott blasted off for a 15-second, 110-decibel rocketbelt demonstration, he flew in the same air space where F-16s were wowing the crowd with gravity-defying stunts and turns at mind-bending angles–like practically perpendicular to the ground.
In addition to Scott's daily demos, jetpack and rocketbelt enthusiasts (read: obsessives), could check out Gerard Martowlis ground testing the rocketbelt he's built from scratch in his New Jersey basement. (And he has the hydrogen peroxide fuel burns to prove it).
The self-proclaimed Rocketman, Ky Michaelson, drove 15 hours from Minneapolis to show off his shiny rocket-powered chair, scooter and a kid-sized 'pack that my daughter Oona was lucky enough to try on. (In case anyone doubts how serious Ky is about all this, consider the fact that his son's middle name is legally "Rocketman").
A couple of the rocketbelt scene's biggest stars were on hand: the Mexican rocket wizard, Juan Lozano, who has affixed high-octane propulsion to just about anything you can think of, including four rocketbelts; and the man some call Mr. Jetpack, Bill Suitor.
If you witnessed the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, have seen Thunderball or certain episodes of Lost in Space, or ever searched "jetpack" on YouTube, you've seen Suitor's work–the former Bell Aerospace pilot has taken some 1,200 rocketbelt flights in his lifetime.
The convention's technology was so inspiring Oona appeared to be just as happy trying on the mini rocketbelt as she was ripping down the giant inflatable slide in the kiddie zone. Perhaps the best way to sum up this year's convention is by paraphrasing the words of the great Stephen Colbert: For years we've been promised little wrist-sized televisions, a meal in a pill and jetpacks –- let's hope this year that promise finally becomes a reality.