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SportsMonday Column: The flight of the Rocketman

By Tim Rohan, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 30, 2011

“It’s a total finesse thing, and you have to learn not to be too excited, too anxious.

“You find your mind racing harder and faster than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. If you’ve ever done a sport, this thing is …”

His voice trailed.

“You know, I don’t like saying it, but if you’re riding a bicycle and fall off, it’s not like falling out of the sky.

“Some people work well under pressure.”

Scott was a pro by the time Smirnoff called in 2004, looking for a pilot to help promote its new bottle label. In London, Scott flew 152 feet in the air — a Guinness World Record — getting high enough to land on a 10-foot-by-10-foot platform atop a castle turret.

In 2007, he set the speed record when he reached 80 miles per hour. Then, in 2009, he met a “personal challenge,” when he crossed a 1,000-foot deep gorge — the same chasm the 1,500-foot Royal Gorge Bridge spans in Colorado.

Standing outside Michigan Stadium, Scott felt comfortable with the 85-pound machine on his back. Thirty pounds of force were about to be exerted on his hands. Scott compared the feeling to standing on top of a ball, trying to balance yourself, with two fire hoses turned on.

But there was no reason to panic.

“Trust your mind,” Scott said. “Over time, you figure out what you are capable in the machine. You can push it as much as you want and go outside the envelope. When you start getting too far ahead of yourself, you can get some issues.

“I don’t ever want to find myself making decisions like that — because I’m not some crazy, wild man. I’m a very calculated individual when it comes to my life and limbs and stuff. I’ll push it, but I’m not going to do something that’ll kill me.”

The PA announcer boomed, “Presenting today’s Homecoming 2011 game ball, ROCKETMAN.”

Scott shot straight up into the air, appearing just above the massive luxury suites in the southeast corner. The stadium erupted, but Scott couldn’t hear a thing.

Up that high, above the stadium, Scott looked out and enjoyed his view of Ann Arbor. Then he headed towards the student section — and fast. Everyone in the stadium who was first witnessing Rocketman didn’t know he was in control.

But Scott smoothly turned and glided towards the block ‘M’ at the 50-yard line.

“When you land, there’s all that noise (from the jet pack), then when it shuts off there’s silence,” Scott said.

For every one of his 15 to 30 flights he takes each year, it's always the same.

“Then you hear the crowd screaming for me,” he continued.

“It one-upped every show that I’ve done before. It just keeps getting better every time. It was (my) pleasure.”

No, Mr. Rocketman. Thank you.

—Rohan can be reached at trohan@umich.edu or on Twitter @TimRohan


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