Reporter's Notebook The Tattoo

On the scene at the X Prize Cup

"Rocket Man" Dan Schlund takes to the air at the X Prize. (Josh Gales/YJI)

The Rocket Man takes flight

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – The name Rocket Man seems pretty self-explanatory: he uses a rocket (technically a jetpack) to fly around at air shows and other large events to entertain the crowd.
Rocket Man, also known as Dan Schlund, has been doing this for 30 years. He flew three times today at the X-Prize Cup.
His started out his flights standing on the tarmac with his jetpack strapped onto his back and the crowd anticipating his “launch.”
As the crowd counted down, he readied himself for takeoff.
When he ascended, the sound of his jetpack was astounding. For something so small, it puts out a lot of noise.
The first thought that goes through your mind is “I’m not seeing this!”
After all, it’s not every day that you see a person just floating 50 feet above the ground.
He flew down the crowd line for 800 feet or so, then came in for a smooth landing.
The entire flight lasted a little bit less than 30 seconds.
After the flight, Rocket Man walked over to the crowd and shook hands and signed autographs for the many kids at the event today. Now if I can just figure out how to get a ride….

Skydiving at ground level

Simulated skydiving proved another highlight today.
It is accomplished by taking an airplane propeller, turning it so the prop wash goes towards the sky, and jumping into the rushing air.
Ok, so there’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the gist.
To keep people from falling out of the air current, the simulated dives are done inside an inflatable arena. There is a mesh on the floor to protect participants from the propeller.
Before I tried it out, I got a few minutes of instruction that covered basic positioning and the hand signals that would be used since talking during the ride is impossible because of the air rushing around you and the noise from the propeller.
Ear plugs are worn for protection, as well as a helmet, goggles and a jumpsuit.
After my group climbed up the stairs to the inflatable arena, we got ready to go. To get a dive started, you walk to the edge of the inflatable barrier, and simply fall forward into the stream of air.
But instead of falling, you float!
It is an amazing feeling to say the least, and something that I would readily do again.

Josh Gales is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

Josh Glales at the controls (YJI)

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