One of the first questions people ask when they begin considering hydroflight is something along the lines of, “What kind of jet ski do I need to buy to use with a Flyboard?” or “What is the minimum horsepower needed to fly?” or “What type of PWC do I need for the jetpack?” All of these questions are essentially the same. They can all be restated as, “What are the PWC requirements for hydroflight devices?”, where hydroflight devices are defined as jetboards (Flyboard, Jetblade, X-Board, Jetdeck, etc.), jetpacks (Zapata, X-Jets, Jetlev) and jetbikes (Jetovator, FlyBike).
The easy answer to this question is, the newer and more powerful the PWC/jet ski, the better the performance of your hydroflight device will be.
To start with a baseline, here are the absolute minimum PWC requirements to get yourself flying:
Minimum PWC Requirements for Hydroflight
- - Manufacturer: SeaDoo, Yamaha, Kawasaki or Honda
- - Model Year: 2005 or later
- - Horsepower: 100+
- - Engine: 4- stroke
Note: These are general guidelines, so you should consider all the information included in this post to determine compatibility of your PWC. And if you are shopping for a new PWC, it should be noted that you will get much better performance (and enjoyment) from a higher performance PWC.
Since it’s not as simple as finding a PWC that meets the minimum requirements, here are a few considerations to determine the PWC that’s right for you:
Current PWC Owner vs. Shopper
Do you already own a PWC or are you planning to buy a new/used ski to start flying?
- - If you already own a PWC, provided it meets the minimum requirements laid out above, you will be able to use it with any of the major hydroflight devices. If your PWC is on the low end of the power range though, you will most likely quickly max out your flying height, so you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model for better performance.
- - If you are planning to buy a new (or used) PWC for use with your hydroflight device, you’ll want to consider the various items laid out in this post, keeping in mind that your biggest consideration is horsepower and recognizing that it takes a lot more power to fly with a PWC than to operate it normally.
Personal Use vs. Commercial Use
Will the hydroflight device be used for personal use (i.e. family and friends) or commercial use (i.e. in a business, such as a rental center)?
- - For personal use, you’ll want to maximize the horsepower to get the best performance. If you use a less powerful PWC, you’ll quickly max out your flight ceiling, which will leave you wanting more power and height. For most users, a minimum 200 horsepower unit equipped with a dual impeller is recommended, which will provide sufficient performance and power to get most pilots up 30-50 feet in the air.
- - For commercial use, we recommend using a 130-180 horsepower non-supercharged PWC equipped with a dual impeller, which will give you enough power to satisfy most beginning and returning pilots who are happy flying up to about 25 feet. Non-supercharged engines typically burn 3-5 gallons of regular unleaded fuel per operating hour and have modest operating and maintenance costs.
What is the average (or max) weight of the people who will be flying?
- -The more weight, the more power you’ll need to get into the air, so you’ll want to factor this into your PWC decision. Refer to the tables below for a guide of horsepower, weight and max height.
PWC Brand Preference
Do you have a preferred brand among the major PWC manufacturers (SeaDoo, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda)?
- - SeaDoo models offer an internal closed-loop cooling system that uses an onboard cooling source to cool the engine and external water to cool the exhaust system. Many users agree that a closed internal cooling system is better for use in harsh or salt water environments. On the flip side, SeaDoo uses a 3-cylinder marine power plant which is smaller than most others on the market, which could lead to higher maintenance costs. SeaDoo advertises their horsepower ratings making it easy to choose the right model for your application.
- - Yamaha Waverunners are known for above average, low-maintenance operation and Yamaha has a large dealer network for better parts & service availability. Their 4-cylinder marine engine boasts one of the largest displacements in the industry and, with so many different body styles, engine options and accessories, Yamaha will have a model that fits your application and meets your needs, however Yamaha does not advertise their horsepower rating, which can make it more difficult to find an acceptable model for hydroflight.
- - Kawasaki builds two main PWC models, the 160 horsepower STX 15F and the 310 horsepower Ultra 310. There are several body styles available for each, but generally speaking, it’s best to select the one with the fewest features as most are not functional in hydroflight applications anyway. Many flight centers use the Ultra 310, which offers more horsepower than any other PWC model on the market, but we’ve found the 15F to be a bit too small and somewhat nose heavy, which can cause the nose to dip or submerge when in use with a hydroflight device.
- - Honda is/was the smallest player in the PWC space, with its AquaTrax being their primary model (last manufactured in 2009). For those who own any of the Honda PWCs, there are adapters available that will allow you to fly, but you’ll need to be aware that getting parts going forward may be difficult, so a switch to one of the other manufacturers may eventually be necessary.
Horsepower/Weight/Max Height Tables
The tables below provide three examples of PWCs at different power levels (we used Yamaha, since that's what we have the most experience with, but you can find similar models from the other manufacturers to determine their respective height ranges).
*Hydroflight is not recommended for pilots under 100lbs/45kg
**Max Flying Height assumes flying at sea level (higher altitudes will have lower max height) with a 65-foot hose and using a dual impeller, which typically adds 5-10ft/1.5-3m in height.
When in doubt, ask your hydroflight dealer for their recommendation based on your specific needs, but hopefully the information above provided some insight into the somewhat complex decision of what PWC to use with your hydroflight device.
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