is the consummate icon of the early years of science fiction. This device represents the ultimate in convenience and personal mobility. Just strap this backpack sized object on and travel anywhere you'd want to go. Never mind the actual technological challenges in making such a device practical
However, the standard depiction of the Jet Pack in media has one problem: The proximity of the jet exhaust to the seat of the pilot's pants. Without some Unobtainium-level
heat protection, the pilot's rear, thighs, and possibly calves would get charred to carbon within minutes (or seconds) of firing the thing up. Yet going back through all the rocket man serials of the 1930s and the homages to them, we see no attempt to shield the Jet Pack operator from this simple operational hazard.
This issue is likely ignored for the same reason that no-one ever calls anyone on Convection Schmonvection
: If the flames aren't visibly in contact
with the pilot (or visible at all
in the case of certain combustible gases), then "obviously" there'll be no harm. An actual technical way of avoiding this trope, of course, would be to have the thrusters mounted by the shoulders and/or pointing outwards with the thrust directed away from the user's body.
See also Farts on Fire
and Rump Roast
. Not to be confused with
the hilarious results
of sitting on hot things.
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Anime & Manga
- Chachamaru of Mahou Sensei Negima! sprouts a jetpack from her back in this manner. Though she herself is undoubtedly resistant to heat, her standard issue school uniform always remains unsinged (might also be a case of Magic Pants since the jets appear through her blouse and blazer).
- Averted in Digimon Savers. Gaomon and Agumon get jetpacks as part of their evolutions to Machgaogamon and Rizegreymon, respectively. The former gets the jet part at the ends of the wings, while the latter has jets as part of the wings (and point away from his tail).
- Lampshaded in an early issue of West Coast Avengers, where Wonder Man debuts a new (and hideously ugly) costume, with his trademark jet thrusters moved to his back instead of his hips.
Won't that burn your... ah... Wonder Man:
Not if your "Ah" is invulnerable
- In Ex Machina, this is a problem for "The Great Machine" once or twice. But that's why his backup always has fire extinguishers.
- Gaston Lagaffe designs a jetpack but Reality Ensues when he tests it, burning up his ass and making him run around screaming in pain. After turning off the fire, Fantasio remarks that while it doesn't do much vertical performance, it does a lot of horizontal performance.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Averted in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen: The thrusters on Optimus Prime's Powered Armor are outboard of the shoulders. They can also pivot, as Optimus demonstrated when he weaponized the backblast against Megatron.
- Spoofed in J Men Forever when a Gag-Dubbed Commando Cody complains that his feet are on fire, along with the many other problems of using an atomic-powered jetpack.
- The Rocketeer tries to Hand Wave this by suggesting that the alcohol-based fuel will result in a cooler flame (which is true)— but said fuel will not produce nearly enough energy. Points for trying, though. In fact, the Rocketeer is flat-out bizarrely inconsistent about this — in one scene, the jets set fire to the set, but in another a sheet is directly exposed to the flames for several seconds without even being singed.
- Minority Report has the protagonist fighting a jetpack-equipped police officer inside an apartment. Oddly enough the exhaust flame does set a few other things on fire, but leaves him miraculously unscathed.
- Star Wars: Boba and Jango Fett. Though they are wearing what is likely heat-resistant armor. Averted by other Mandalorians in the EU, who make use of a skirt-like Kama, which is made out of flame-retardant materials to protect their legs.
- Averted in Thunderball, which has a real frickin' jetpack. (Though the sound effect was changed because Reality Is Unrealistic).
- Subverted in the Marvel novel Codename: Wolverine. S.H.I.E.L.D. is testing just such a jetpack, with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents wearing a special heat-resistant bodysuit when using it, though tests are brief so far since the reliability is questionable. Wolverine dons the pack so he and Mystique can make their escape (with him sans suit), and gets to put his healing factor to yet another very painful test.
- Actor Robert Duncan McNeill recounted at a recent Con of his time as Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager that his rear did catch fire from the jetpack in a "Captain Proton" episode. The on-site nurse had him drop pants right there to make sure everything was all right. He claims Tim Russ has photos.
- At least approached in Upright Citizens Brigade episode "The Story of the Toad", in which Antoine asks two prostitutes, "Hey... How would you ladies like to make love while wearing a jetpack?" but then cautions, "We can't do it doggy style though, you'll set me on fire."
- Deadlands hand waves this trope in its Mad Science source book, "Smith and Robards": every jetpack purchased is shipped with a complimentary pair of asbestos pants.
- Averted in Warhammer 40,000. The jetpacks used by Space Marines are built so that the exhaust flies outward at an angle from the body of the flier. Their legs are nowhere near the danger zone. Being clad in Power Armor probably helps too. Grav-chutes used by the Imperial Guard have a similar design, though they are less powerful and are used only for descent.
- Mechwarrior, BattleTech's spinoff roleplaying game, features jump packs and jump infantry, who are explicitly stated to have fire retardant armor padding in their rear portion. Troopers in heavier Power Armor have jets integrated into the exterior of their battle suits separated from themselves by several inches of ablative armor, and thus don't have this issue at all.
- Subverted in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja as Doc meets a man using a jetpack and immediately tries to treat his leg-burns. Apparently, the dinosaurs who sponsor the whole jetpack thing (it really does make sense in context) deliberately use this style, as they are hunting the humans and aren't particularly concerned about their well-being.
- Averted with John's Rocket Pack, which is so large that it extends to the floor, and the exhaust comes out below the feet.
- But then played straight with Terezi's Wing Pack, which has the engine in the usual rump-roasting place.
- xkcd: Discussed in a comic, providing the page image. "Rocket packs are easy. The hard part is inventing the calf shields." The Alt Text for that comic is "Every year: 'It's <year> — I want my jetpack [and also my free medical care covering all my jetpack-related injuries]!'"