At last year's AirVenture, a start-up company from New Zealand created the biggest buzz of the show with an unlikely contraption called the Martin Jetpack. The fallout from Glenn Martin's Oshkosh appearance has spawned a new corporate structure, plans for a factory and technical advances that Martin says could eventually create a niche market that serves thrill seekers and business alike. In a podcast interview with AVweb, Martin said he's no longer the one man band trying to solve the formidable technical challenges of his creation while creating the business needed to support it. "We now have a CEO and a board of directors," he said. That leaves him free to work on the invention, which has been 28 years in the making. Martin said he's made significant progress in the controllability of the device, to the point where he'll be opening an amusement facility that will, for a fee, allow novices to "have a go" after only about 45 minutes of training. Martin wouldn't disclose the exact number of orders so far but he said the plan is to build a factory that will build 500 of the $100,000-plus machines a year.
Martin said the most important improvement has been the installation of a digital fly-by-wire system that makes controlling the JetPack a lot easier. At the same time they're working on evaluating the reliability and longevity of the engine and propulsion system, both of which were designed and built from scratch so therefore have no technical track record. After every hour or so of flight time, the machine is torn down to its individual parts, which are measured and inspected to determine wear points. He also said they're close to achieving the 30-minute endurance goal set for the intial production model. The longest flight so far was more than five minutes and the fuel burn extrapolates to an endurance of 28 minutes.