|Jet Machines Extreme of Neenah, WI is currently in Phase I testing of their new Jet Vest. This 4-turbine aircraft delivers 400 pounds of thrust for 5 minutes. Test flights are expected to take place this September. Photo courtesy of Mariano Rosales.
By Mariano Rosales
Move over Kolonel Keds and RocketMan; Jet Vest Man is about to take your place.
Dieter Sturm and Jeff Seymour, co-founders of Jet Machines Extreme, say they've created the world's smallest jet turbine flying belt. Called Jet Vest, it will incorporate four micro jet turbine engines designed and built by Seymour that will provide the jetpack with 400 pounds of thrust.
It will allow someone to fly for up to four minutes using Jet A fuel, Sturm said. "That's an 800 percent increase in flight time over rocket belts."
The Jet Vest is on display in the Innovation Hangar South on the AirVenture flightline.
The two got interested in jet belts after Bell Aerosystems created its jet belt in the mid-1960s. But it was heavy and dangerous to operate, and by 1969, work on the turbojet ended.
Their project, however, has been on the fast track since EAA invited them six months ago to showcase their idea here.
"The idea for the Jet Vest went from our heads, to paper, to blueprints, to CAD, to actually production," Seymour said. They researched the human body to create the vest, and found that most men's spinal structure is almost identical. The vest is made to preserve the spine and protect the neck.
Testing on the vest will start this fall once their mobile tether system is complete. The mobile system will also allow people to safely train on the vest's use before moving to free flight.
"Flying belts have a cult following around the world," said Seymour, who has designed and built miniature jet turbine engine projects for the U.S. military and NASA. "So many adult men have seen this here and say, 'I want one of those.'"
What's stopping them now is a lack of capital, said Sturm, who also is an Academy Award winning special effects coordinator
for the motion picture and TV industries. They are looking for a group or an enthusiast who can help fund the next level of their project.
They said the Jet Vest would be used mainly for promotional appearances and marketing and branding for corporate sponsors. "It would be used at things like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or other large-scale audience events and venues," Sturm said. "It just gives you that 'wow' factor when you see a person flying...."
"When the Harrier jet is flying and stops to hover, there is a thrill that passes through everyone here," Seymour said. The vest should provide a similar thrill to audience, in part due to the noise it will make from its four engines, he said.
The two don't intend to sell the vests, but rather earn their return on investment from major corporate sponsors.
If funding is found soon, Seymour said they hope to fly the Jet Vest at the 2013 AirVenture fly-in and convention.
At this point, however, they're not sure if someone would need a pilot certificate to fly the turbine-powered flying belt. "We've begun discussions with EAA to help us determine what category (of aircraft) this falls into," Sturm said.