Without a parachute or safety net, he made it with only nine seconds to spare before his contraption ran out of the fuel that powered it – hair bleach, or hydrogen peroxide. The achievement catapulted the 45-year-old Eric Scott into the record books and was hailed as a big step towards a commercially viable jet pack. The problem with jet packs is that they burn fuel very fast. In the case of Scott, he reckoned the fuel would run out after 30 seconds, at the most. And once that happened there was only one way he could go. Then there was the fact that rather than being just a few feet off the ground, as had been the case on previous tests, he was hovering above a 1,000ft gorge with nothing to break his fall until he hit the river below. “[A parachute] would have added more weight so I opted to go light to get across,” he says. “If I had carried a parachute, it could have been very possible I would have had to use it. And if you see the bottom of that gorge, it’s barely 200ft wide and the Arkansas River’s covering half of it . . . It didn’t make sense.”
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The main worry, however, was that Scott had no way of of knowing whether his jet pack would have enough fuel to make the crossing: “This was almost twice the distance that I’ve ever flown before,” he says. “I’ve run out of fuel at 29 seconds before – 2ft off the deck. But I had no idea exactly how long it [the crossing] was going to take. I was expecting a 25 to 28-second flight. “It always looks good on paper, but paper’s paper and 1,000ft gorges are 1,000ft gorges. Finally, I just made the decision that we’re gonna do it. It was a personal thing. Just one of those things that needed to be done.” Jet packs have been the dream of garden-shed enthusiasts and multinational aeronautical companies for decades. The idea of giving a human being enough thrust to lift clear of the surface, and the control to follow his chosen flight path, was regarded as the closest you could get to mimicking the flight of a bird.
Today Scott is one of a select handful of jet-pack pilots in the world, a self-described “barnstormer” with more than 800 flights and 16 years of professional display flying to his name. His jet pack is a modern evolution of the Bell design– a faster, lighter, hot-rod version that burns about a gallon of hydrogen peroxide rocket fuel every six seconds. It produces a cloud of eyewatering superheated steam, an ear-shredding 150-decibel roar and as much power as a Formula One car.
Unlike Yves Rossy, the Swiss airline pilot who crossed the Channel using rocket-powered wings in September, Scott had nothing to help change direction other than thrust. “You’re using your left hand as your control, just rotating you left and right, and if you overcorrect, the wind wants to spin you,” he explains. “I slowed it down and coasted, and then I just kept punching it and punching it, trying to maintain control with as much speed as I possibly could. (Source: Times online)