Troy Widgery's company, JetPack International, has spent the past two years developing a device that fulfills those Jetsons-era fantasies - and can keep you airborne for all of nine minutes.
Widgery is a former champion skydiver and entrepreneur. He founded Go Fast Sports in 1992, a company that markets energy drinks to extreme-sports fans in 18 countries. A taste for stunts led Go Fast to launch the first civilian unmanned rocket into space in 2004. Widgery decided that using a jetpack with the Go Fast brand at sports events would "just make us cooler."
His quest for a jetpack that wouldn't bankrupt the company soon took on a life of its own, eating up more than $1 million in development costs and spawning Jet Pack International (Jet P.I.).
Soon he hit upon the idea of using three small jet turbine engines, powered by jet fuel, and a pack constructed with lightweight carbon fiber. Fuel for a single flight would now cost just $20.
Jet P.I. has already been turning a profit, thanks to an earlier jetpack prototype that flies for 45 seconds. Pilot Eric Scott grosses $25,000 a flight by booking demonstrations at air shows as far-flung as Amsterdam and Bolivia, and at a recent Monday Night Football game.
Based on interest from prospective buyers, Widgery's (highly optimistic) projection is for sales of $30 million a year by 2010. He is also developing a videogame and hiring professional pilots. "It's a dream job," Widgery says.