Unlike many other jet wings, Skyflash is designed to take off from the ground, rather than being dropped from a helicopter or plane. Inspired by the wings of a condor, the largest flying bird in the western hemisphere, "the ultimate flying backpack" has a wingspan of about 11 feet and is powered by two microturbine diesel jet-engines.
The jetpack is piloted through a computerized wrist display and a throttle in the pilot’s right hand. To climb and steer, the pilot simply shifts his body weight. The heat-proof boots aren't just for protection, but a design feature because the jets’ thrust angle is controlled by dipping the boots into the exhaust like the control vanes on a V2 rocket.
The team's Facebook page ambitiously says it will be capable of speeds of 200 miles per hour, but for now it has a cruising speed of 78 miles per hour at heights of up to 11,800 feet.
"I wanted to fly free as a bird. I wanted to get rid of the air frame and everything you typically need," Unger told the Discovery Channel. For the first road test with a pilot, Unger tried his prototype with just one of the engines, getting up to 30 miles per hour on the ground.
The Skyflash team is planning a full test flight sometime in the middle of this year, which hopefully means they'll actually get up into the air. Before you get too excited, though -- they may not have figured out a way to land it yet. They say a safe landing is achieved "the same way you took off." In case of an emergency, the wings can detach and the body contains a parachute.