Normal people don’t strap a jet engine on their back while wearing a pair of rollerskates, but Ian Charnas isn’t normal. He wanted to see how fast a human could go on roller skates with jetpack power—the first skate pack.
Procuring a Jet Engine
As it turns out, buying a jet engine isn’t as hard as you might think. If you’re in the market, you can shop online and ship it to your home. On eBay, jet engines sell to the highest bidder.
That’s where Ian found his small turbine engine. Next, he needed to find jet fuel, but getting jet fuel isn’t as easy as ordering a jet engine. Kind of weird, huh!
After some persistence, Ian discovered a private airfield with a self-service jet fuel pump. With fuel in his tank, he welded a test stand. After the engine hit its peak speed of 98,000 RPMs and 55 pounds of thrust, it was time to build a genuine, ACME catalog-style jetpack that Wile E. Coyote would envy.
Designing a Back-Mounted Skate Pack
First, it’s important to make sure the jet engine stays in place. As much as Ian likes the “Looney Tunes” references, he didn’t want his engine spiraling through the air!
The next order of business was to ensure the jet-powered skate pack didn’t light Ian’s underwear on fire. He designed a heat shield to reflect the heat off of his backside. That’s something Wile E. Coyote would forget.
Finally, it was time to test this slightly hair-brained idea.
Roller Skating at Full Throttle
As the engine starts, the high-pitched wiring sound is a little unnerving, especially when it’s strapped to your back and you’re wearing roller skates.
Things started slowly as Ian put his legs and balance to the test. It worked! The jet engine stayed in place. No fire extinguisher necessary.
The only thing left to do was put the skate pack to the parking lot test! Ian maxed out at 17 mph. No small feat for an engineer! But he knew there had to be people better at skating and crazy enough to turn up the heat.
Luckily, some local roller derby skaters were fearless enough to take on the challenge. After a few tries, they smoked Ian’s attempt with a speedy, 32 mph run.
If Wile E. Coyote took a page from Ian’s book, he’d be able to catch the Roadrunner without burning his tail off!
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