Fritz Unger and his friend have been working on the Skyflash jetpack project since 2007, mostly with the help of online donations, and the pair have started running piloted tests on the engines and wings in the last few months.
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.