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An Australian man flying his jetpack has wowed crowds around Sydney Harbour

Sascha O’Sullivan, July 22, 2019 7:00PM The Australian

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David Mayman wearing his jetpack before takeoff over Sydney Harbour, NSW. Picture: AAP media_cameraDavid Mayman wearing his jetpack before takeoff over Sydney Harbour, NSW. Picture: AAP


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A man wearing a jetpack has flown around Sydney Harbour, to the amazement of tourists exploring the Sydney Opera House.

Australian businessman David Mayman has spent 12 years developing the jetpack and nine years waiting to fly around Sydney Harbour on it, after a 2010 flight by the Opera House in a jet-powered rocket belt landed him in the water.

“I left Australia 24 years ago and it’s great to be flying (at the Sydney Opera House),” Mr Mayman told The Australian newspaper.

“I’ve flown all over the world but I haven’t flown here.”

Despite crash-landing in the harbour nine years ago, Mr Mayman said he wasn’t nervous for the flight, which was a celebration of the soon-to-be-released documentary Own the Sky following his 12-year journey.

“I trust in the jetpack, I have been personally involved with designing and building it and, of course, something can go wrong but I try and fly relatively* conservatively*,” Mr Mayman said.

The deafening sound of the six engines of the jetpack firing up drew a massive crowd harbourside on Sunday as people watched mesmerised* as Mr Mayman flew from the Man O’ War steps next to the Opera House, around Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and under the shadow of the Opera House sails.

Jetpack Flight David Mayman media_cameraAustralian David Mayman demonstrating the world’s first real jetpack high above the sails of the Sydney Opera House on Sunday. Picture: Jane Dempster

Mr Mayman, who is petrified* of heights but has dreamt of flying since he was a boy, said that dream trumped* any fear and any angst* or frustration he came up against while developing the jetpack.

“It takes a kind of obsession* and insanity* to do something that everyone says is impossible,” Mr Mayman said. “There was a lot of anguish* along the way.

“The problem when you’re doing something that’s totally new is there is no playbook* to follow; you find the best engineers and you work with them, and then you have to find engines and build computers that haven’t been needed before.”

media_cameraPersonal jetpack maker Jetpack Aviation’s test pilot and chief executive David Mayman. Picture: supplied

The jetpack weighs about 35kg, and straps on like a hiking backpack. With six engines, it can fly up to 5km high.

Once the engines are fired up, the jetpack becomes completely weightless.

“The feeling of flying with it is amazing. I still haven’t been able to fully describe it,” Mr Mayman said.

“On one side, it’s really intense because you have these incredibly powerful engines and in my right hand I have my throttle*, but on the other side it’s very gentle, and when you take off, it gently lifts you off the ground.

“You look down and there’s nothing below you — the earth just disappears and it’s amazing.”

Personal Jetpacks: Is This the Future of Transportation?

Later this week a Frenchman will try to fly his jet-powered hoverboard across the English Channel from France to England.

Franky Zapata is expected to cross Sangatte near Calais, France to St Margaret’s Bay near Dover, England in 20 minutes. He will fly at speeds of up to 140km/h and will refuel halfway.

Mr Zapata wowed crowds at Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 in Paris when he flew his hoverboard at just more than 300km/h over the top of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a military display.

media_cameraFranky Zapata flies a jet-powered hoverboard as the French military acrobatic flying team flies over the Arc de Triomphe during the Bastille Day military parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 14, 2019. Picture: AFP

He calls his invention Flyboard Air and hopes to sell it to the French military. On Bastille Day he was nicknamed the “flying soldier” as he was carrying a fake gun as part of his costume.

The hoverboard looks like the one used by the character Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, in the Back to the Future films.

The businessman and inventor developed the turbine-engine* powered board in his garage at home.


  • relatively: when compared to other things
  • conservatively: in a cautious way
  • mesmerised: transfixed, having someone’s complete attention
  • petrified: terrified
  • trumped: was better than
  • angst: feeling of anxiety or dread
  • obsession: something you are completely fixed on and can’t think about anything else
  • insanity: craziness
  • anguish: pain or suffering
  • playbook: rule or instruction book
  • throttle: controls the fuel into an engine to make it work harder or not as hard
  • turbine engine: a type of jet engine


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  1. What happened on David Mayman’s 2010 Sydney Harbour flight?
  2. How high can the jetpack fly?
  3. What does the jetpack weigh?
  4. Will the hoverboard have enough fuel to get all the way across the English Channel?
  5. What date is Bastille Day, France’s national day?


1. Write a sales pitch
Two incredible inventions … David Mayman’s Jetpack, powered by six engines, can fly up to 5km high and Franky Zapata’s hoverboard, powered by five mini turbo engines and can run for approximately 10 minutes without refuelling.

While David Mayman’s invention has allowed him to live a childhood dream, Franky Zapata is hoping to sell his invention to the French military.

Can you think of a way that this hoverboard could be useful to the military?

What other organisations might find the hoverboard useful? (Police, fast food delivery?) Which organisations might find the Jetpack useful?

Choose either the Jetpack or the Hoverboard and ‘pitch’ a sale to an organisation you think will benefit from this invention.

In your pitch include: 

  • What the invention is (details of who designed it, how it works and what it can do)
  • How it might be of use to this organisation specifically — there may be a few uses for it (eg, could the jetpack be used by police to survey a crowd for potential trouble? Could it allow a paramedic to get to an accident more quickly without having to get through busy traffic?).
  • How much it would cost (you can decide what you think this invention might be worth?

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Technologies — Design and Technologies

2. Extension
David Mayman and Franky Zapata have taken the everyday items of a backpack and skateboard and redeveloped them so they can fly. What else would you like to see with the ability to fly?

Create a design brief for another everyday item (for example; a bicycle or umbrella) redeveloped so that it can fly. You can choose whichever item you like.
Make sure your brief shows: 

  • A labelled diagram of your invention
  • How it will be powered
  • How far you expect it to travel
  • How you steer it
  • Why you would like this item to allow you to fly
  • Any other relevant information

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Technologies — Design and Technologies

Where in the World is Vinny?

Vinny Vocabulary has taken hold of the article and added in some very specific and interesting words. Go through the article with a partner and see if you can find some of Vinny’s wow words.

Once you have found at least 5, use 2 of them to write your own sentence about an experience, dream or invention you have.

Did Vinny’s words come in handy or did you need some wow words of your own?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you fly with a jetpack or hoverboard? Would you be scared?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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