Martin Jetpack Debuts in AeroShell Square

July 29th will go down in the Martin family as the day this family of four could let out a sigh of relief. You see, their family secret, held for 27 years, is finally out. And what a secret.

Glenn Martin began tinkering with the idea of a ducted fan jetpack more than 27 years ago. He worked on it quietly in his garage, without letting on to anyone (even his girlfriend). He married Vanessa, a registered nurse, and did eventually have to tell her.

"I thought it was fantastic. I'd always loved anything about aviation, but I'd had no exposure, not even a flight in a light Cessna," says Vanessa Martin. She, too, understood how important the machine was to Glenn, and the two even swore their young sons to secrecy. (Can you imagine NOT being able to tell your friends that your dad is building a jetpack in the garage?)

Through the years the pack, which works through torque-neutral ducted fans with vectored thrust and hand controls for roll, pitch and yaw axis, went through many evolutions. "We have control vanes at the bottom of the beast, down in the airflow, that give us pitch and roll; we have another set of control vanes around the center of gravity that we use for yaw, and a throttle for thrust. On the right hand is throttle and pitch, and on the left yaw and roll," Glenn says.

Two Harrier pilots got involved in the later development stages. "We got to about prototype 7, and we knew it was ready to fly," says Glenn. When it was time to fly, Glenn, at 220 pounds, realized he was not the right size to be its test pilot. But Vanessa, at a svelte 135 pounds, was.

"We were very, very conservative. We started out by just turning it on. He strapped me in, and we started with little hops, tethered, and with two people holding onto training bars to help steady things," Vanessa says. "You push the throttle and feel the power, and then you get light on your toes, and up you go!" she said with a laugh. "It's a sensation like nothing you've ever had!"

We can only imagine. The Martin Jetpack burns 93 octane mogas, and is built to be a Part 103-legal ultralight, weighing 250 pounds empty. The company is currently taking deposits, and estimates the final price tag for the machine at $100,000.

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TCW Technologies Introduces Stable Power

There is no question that one of the overwhelming themes of EAA's 2008 AirVenture show is economy and efficiency. We all want to go faster and farther while expending less energy, and spending less money in the process. Bob Newman, president of TCW Technologies, is all for it.

He's introducing his Intelligent Power Stabilizer power conditioner and surge/sag protector for aircraft avionics in Hangar E. "It's all about economy," says Newman. "No one wants to sit on the ramp with the engine running waiting for their avionics to boot up," he explained. "Some EFIS and GPS units take up to 2 minutes to stabilize, and the whole time your engine is running. People are rightly afraid to boot up their avionics pre-engine start because of the possibility of a surge or sag in power, causing their avionics to reboot."

The Intelligent Power Stabilizer is wired between the battery circuit for the avionics and the avionics themselves. It will condition and stabilize the power down to 5 volts. The 12-volt model is available for $335.

For more information, visit TCW Technologies.

Skybike's Telescoping Wings

This AirVenture's key new aircraft designs all seem to have one component in common: some kind of rotating, swinging or folding wing design. Roadable aircraft vehicles are also all the rage.

Sam Bousfield, president of Samson Motoworks, has been working on a three-wheeled roadable aircraft he calls the Skybike that solves the issue of what to do with the wings on the ground in a novel way: The Skybike's wings telescope in and out.

"It's been two years from my original concept of a lightweight, motorcycle-based machine that would be stable on the ground even in high wind conditions," says Bousfield. "Our patent-pending design has a telescoping titanium wingspar and a ducted fan engine with a British Quaife Engineering transmission drive that splits the engine output to the two back wheels or, by way of a harmonic decoupler, to the ducted fan propeller."

Bousfield says that Swift Engineering is currently working on a radio-controlled model for wind-tunnel and proof-of-concept testing, and he hopes to have a flying prototype available for the the AirVenture show next year. The Skybike exhibit booth is located in Hangar E.

For more information, visit Swift Engineering.

Dynon Unveils Next-Generation EFIS

Without a formal press conference, Dynon Avionics showed prototypes of its next-generation (and as yet unnamed) EFIS at Oshkosh. Set to debut in the first quarter of 2009, the systems, one with a 10-inch screen and the other with a 7-inch display, break new ground for the company.

For one, the new displays include synthetic vision with terrain awareness in a new split-screen format that can be configured as a full-screen attitude instrument, a top-down moving map, or half and half. The map functions will be controlled by two rotary knobs at the outer corners of the bezel.

The new units will debut several new technologies for Dynon. They will use a series of LRUs—line replaceable units—to provide AHRS data, engine monitoring capabilities, a comm radio and, eventually, remote transponder. All of these are designed to mate to the mother unit through a single cable, as power and data will be provided in a simple link, greatly easing upgrade installations. Moreover, either unit can be fed with two AHRS units for redundancy. Finally, Dynon will implement a dual, parallel DSAB (Dynon Smart Avionics Bus) networking architecture so that any failure in the system, either from the LRUs or the DSAB-commanded autopilot servos, will not take down other components.

"From the start, our vision has been to provide an integrated avionics solution that can do it all. There are high-end solutions that exist today, but they are simply out of reach for most homebuilders and Light Sport Aircraft customers. This new product line will make fully-integrated glass cockpit technology affordable," says John Torode, President of Dynon Avionics.

No prices have been set, though Dynon representatives hinted that the company's penchant for providing a lot of features for not much money is going to continue with the new glass. Dynon was also showing its new autopilot servos and had on display the new AP74 autopilot control module for the existing D100, D10A and FlightDek-D180 units. For more information, contact Dynon Avionics.

The Harrier Comes to AirVenture

The Harrier Jump Jet made its presence known at EAA AirVenture 2008 on Monday. The military jet has the capability to take off and land vertically making it a STOVL aircraft. Those atnding the show learned that STOVL can stand not only for short take off and very loud. The Harrier demonstrated both of these capabilities during its showcase yesterday.

Volunteering Your Expertise

Most people, when they attend the EAA AirVenture 2008 show, notice the people dressed in neon orange t-shirts or sporting reflective vests. They are either zooming around on golf carts and scooters or standing tall, waving day-glow orange wands or paddles, directing traffic, be it aircraft or auto, into their respective parking spots. It is organized chaos, but it works because people are willing to give up a bit of their time.

You may have thought, yes, well, that's wonderful, and it surely keeps the cost of the show to a manageable gate fee, but I'm not so sure I'm ready to be out in the heat, on my feet like that. Well, here's the good news: You don't have to. There's more volunteering at AirVenture than you could ever imagine, and much of it can take place in air-conditioned, seated comfort. Better yet, you can volunteer as an expert in your field, and give a forum talk, or help in the welding, woodworking, or metal-working workshops. All you need is a skill, or a schtick, or a product you've developed that might help others.

Are you a teacher? Each year EAA presents a Women Soar workshop at the beginning of the week at the museum, where teenage girls are invited to participate in mentoring and fun simulator flying and rib-building activities. The goal is to see a few of these young women through their challenging teen years and help them make the tough decisions to go into aviation, math or science careers. Aviation needs everyone it can get these days, and you, as a volunteer, for just a few hours during the EAA AirVenture show, can make a difference. Are you game? For more information on volunteering during AirVenture check the EAA web site.