The SoloTrek XFV (Exo-skeletal Flying Vehicle) was a single-person VTOL aircraft. It was first flown in December 2001 by Millennium Jet Inc, a private company run by Michael Moshier. Millennium Jet subsequently changed its name to Trek Aerospace Inc. The SoloTrek had one seat and was propelled by two ducted fans located above and on either side of the user, leading some to class it as a type of backpack helicopter. It ran for around 2 hours on gasoline fuel. According to Michael Moshier, SoloTrek was capable of hovering for up to two hours, flying at 100km/h and travelling more than 200km. (pics)
One such model is flown in the movie Agent Cody Banks, though only with the aid of special effects.
SoloTrek remains an extremely unusual design; to apply the name ‘jet pack’ is incorrect; the pilot was strapped into the exoskeleton frame which took the weight of the machine whilst landed, though it performed the same aim. In numerous trials at Millennium Jet’s facilities in Sunnyvale, California, the machine “appeared to perform perfectly”.
During these flights, and for obvious safety reasons, the SoloTrek was ‘tethered’ to a sort of crane during test flights, to prevent uncontrolled ascent or travel. The tethers were designed to retract during lift-off to avoid being sucked into the exposed ducted fans at the top of the machine, but during a flight shortly after a rain shower in December, 2002, the tether failed to retract and became tangled in the propeller blades, which duly disintegrated. Pilot and machine dropped to the ground, but whilst the pilot walked away unharmed, SoloTrek would not be so lucky. Unable to stick to the tight development schedule that its backers demanded, Trek Aerospace lost funding, forcing reorganization in 2003.
After reorganization, Trek Aerospace extensively redesigned the aircraft, creating the Springtail EFV. This machine first flew in October, 2003, and went on to successfully complete its DARPA contract in 2005.
Trek Aerospace continues to develop ducted fan vehicles.
The original SoloTrek XFV is on display at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.