Thursday, May 12, 2011


On May 7 Swiss Yves Rossy successfully flew over the Grand Canyon in his custom jet suit and wings. A former airline pilot, Rossy has spent years perfecting his system. He is the only one who can fly it, having previously flown over the English Channel and (unsuccessfully) the Strait of Gibraltar. There is no instrumentation save for an audio altimeter. Someone should design this man a helmet-mounted display. Perhaps the future of flight is like Icarus, a human with wings.


Blogger nige said...

Very interesting idea! I've always wondered whether it's possible in principle to do this safely using a tiny jet type engine, working on the principle of producing hot air directly from a (barely) supercritical mass of fissile material, instead of exhaust. The turbine would suck in air, the nuclear reactor would heat it, and the heated air would be used in the usual jet manner for propulsion.

The advantage is that you'd be able to fly for weeks not just a few seconds or minutes.

The difficulty would be making it work in a stable way without excessive radiation doses or very heavy shielding. The air intake process will guarantee cooling normal use, and as a backup safety feature, geometric design could produce subcriticality if the fissile material overheats and expands is possible. (Decreasing the density of a given mass of fissile material by thermal expansion, increases the escape of neutrons and reduces supercriticality.)

Maybe also the fissile material could be sealed in special cannisters to prevent any escape of fissile products during normal operation. I don't think the power needed for jetpack use would produce a radiation hazard that can't be safely shielded with an acceptible mass. (Although doubtless this would be unthinkable to killjoys.)

8:38 AM  
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8:58 AM  

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