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The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device

Overview

For a few decades, jet packs seemed to be everywhere: on Gilligan’s Island, Lost in Space, Thunderball, and even the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics. Inventors promised we’d all be flying with them now, enabling us to zoom around effortlessly in the sky and getting us to work without traffic jams and trains. What happened to the jet pack?

In The Great American Jet Pack, Steve Lehto gives us the definitive history of this and related devices, explaining how the ...

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The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device

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Overview

For a few decades, jet packs seemed to be everywhere: on Gilligan’s Island, Lost in Space, Thunderball, and even the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics. Inventors promised we’d all be flying with them now, enabling us to zoom around effortlessly in the sky and getting us to work without traffic jams and trains. What happened to the jet pack?

In The Great American Jet Pack, Steve Lehto gives us the definitive history of this and related devices, explaining how the technology arose, how it works, and why we don’t have them in our garages today.

These individual lift devices, as they were blandly labeled by the government men who financed much of their development, answered man’s desire to simply step outside and take flight. No runways, no wings, no pilot’s license were required. Soaring through the air with the wind in your face and landing anyplace there was room to stand—could this be done? Yes, it could be, and it was.

But the jet pack was perhaps the most overpromised technology of all time. From the rocket belt to the jet belt to the flying platform and all the way to Yves Rossy’s 21st-century free flights using a jet-powered wing, this book profiles the inventors and pilots, the hucksters and cheats, the businessmen and soldiers who were involved with these machines. And it finally tells a great American story of a technology whose promise may, one day, yet come to fruition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"While personal-flight prototypes edge from pipe dream to purchase order, this well-documented history provides a satisfying substitution." —Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews
A sapid look into the historically futile attempts to develop a gravity-defying, single-person flying machine. Personal air flight, independent from conventional planes and unwieldy hot air balloons, has been pondered by hopeful inventors for centuries, writes Lehto (Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation, 2010, etc.). Challenged by the heretofore impossibility of achieving lasting stability while airborne, a great many scientists, inventors and hopeful aeronautical specialists have tried and been mostly unsuccessful. The author applauds many of these creative efforts while charting the jet pack's fascinating evolution. The experimental designs and concepts are legion and include 1940s military engineer Charles Zimmerman's propellered "flying shoes," a device that opened the floodgates for more progressive ideas like Stanley Hiller Jr.'s kinesthetic twin-engine–powered platform and aircraft engineer Wendell Moore's innovative, hydrogen peroxide–fueled rocket belt backpack. All saw their dreams rise and eventually plummet, some with tragic outcomes. Tweaked innovations on Moore's concept continued for decades, with each milestone, from pump hoses to overhead airscrews, improving on the prototype before it, yet issues with safety and flight duration stifled progress. Grounded with an academic tone, Lehto's chapters are rife with technical processes and jargoned commentary wisely tempered with graphic illustrations and photographs, which comprehensively chronicle the unique and choppy legacy of jet-propulsion devices. Though drier than Mac Montandon's Jetpack Dreams (2008), Lehto's approach should appeal to armchair inventors and basement tinkerers. While personal-flight prototypes edge from pipe dream to purchase order, this well-documented history provides a satisfying substitution.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613744307
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Lehto is the author of Death’s Door: The Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder, a 2007 Michigan Notable Book; Chrysler's Turbine Car; and Michigan’s Columbus: The Life of Douglass Houghton.

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