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A character in the novel that I'm working on is capable of pyrokinesis, and one of the applications in which he was experimenting on is using fire control to propel himself upwards in the air like a jetpack (pyrokinetic flight)

What types of requirements would/required secondary powers he need or how could I explain in hypothetical pseudoscience how this works? What effects would he have on his body, during flight in the sky, how we would need to be able to control his flight, effects his fire propulsion might have to his surroundings, etc.

Any help in answering my question is highly appreciated!

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding, Ghazy Aziz! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox (both of which require 5 rep to post on) useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental May 15 '18 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you would necessarily have to explain how he can fly with pyrokinetic powers, but you do have to make it believable. If you look at Azula From Avatar the last airbender, there are many examples of them using fire bending to move around or in the air, but not many people use it. It feels and looks like it makes sense and you can attribute it to simple skill/talent and ingenuity that your character has to think outside the box and the willpower to try over and over again to get it working, sort of like iron man building his first flying suit. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee May 16 '18 at 0:02
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Well, for starters, generating heat wouldn't result in any force being generated. In this set up, its not so much the heat or fire propelling your character as much as him continually making explosions. Think achieving flight by the recoil of firearms. Right off the bat, he would have to be capable of withstanding that kind of explosive force being generated right next to his body.

Using explosive power has other issues for his surroundings. Generating that much force might damage this characters surroundings, but probably not too much more than a helicopter (I'm guessing that last bit. Aerodynamics is not something I know anything about). The real problem would be the noise. Having a character achieve flight by combustion would be louder than an un-muffled motorcycle and would be sure to wake the neighbors. No way he could be able to sneak up on anyone while flying.

A simpler but less ideal solution is for him to heat (and cool down if possible) air in order to manufacture updrafts. Then he can make hang-gliders that never have to touch the ground or reverse-parachutes. It's very gadget-y, but would be plausible and make your character look cleaver.

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    $\begingroup$ Hang glider? The rule of cool clearly dictates that a wing-suit should be used instead. $\endgroup$ – Crettig May 15 '18 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ Or a hot air balloon, for the most ostentatious possible dynamic entry. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop May 15 '18 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Man, that just remembered me this what-if what-if.xkcd.com/21 $\endgroup$ – Shirkam May 17 '18 at 11:36
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Like others have mentioned, fire itself is not going to help in propulsion. You need controlled explosion (or fuel for jet like propulsion).

Check out Bakugo from the anime - My Hero Academia. His power is that he can use his sweat to create explosions from his palms and feet. He then uses these explosions to push him upwards or any in other direction he wants.

The drawback is that his body can only produce a limited amount of sweat at any given time and his body needs to withstand the recoil from the continuous explosions.

For the sweat problem, he created a special suit for himself that stores the sweat he produces throughout the day. So, whenever he needs to create an explosions he can use the stored sweat rather than force his body to create more sweat instantly.

For the recoil problem, the only solution is to make his body as strong and durable as possible.

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Fire is not intrinsically a force - it is a state of combustion, usually exothermic oxidation of a material.

If it acts like a jetpack, then the combustion needs to combine air and fuel, which then must be directed - in your situation downwards.

Secondary Superpower 1 - Fuel

Like a rocket then - but you are using the air surrounding your skin as oxidiser, combine it with something combustible in your body, say oils, hydrogen or a combustible salt. Your first secondary superpower would be to manufacture this or retain it, or survive without it.

Also stopping the reaction is just as important as starting it - as many a rocket scientist may attest, once it starts going this is harder than it may sound.

Secondary Superpower 2 - Skin

Once oxidised and hot, the air needs to be directed downwards. Perhaps hairs on your skin, or new scales, could somehow be shaped to direct the reaction downwards and therefore push you upwards.

You can also use this to steer, your arms could be used to direct hot airflow into other directions.

Secondary Superpower 3 - Damage to organs

Combusting obviously creates heat and a lot of force - you need to protect your body and organs from damage. The skin is the first organ requiring protection, cell structures must not be able to fall apart when exposed to high temperatures and pressures.

Don't forget the other internal organs, eyes, ears, hair, nose, and genitals - these need protection too.

Secondary Superpower 4 - Sensory perception

Obviously when engulfed in an exothermic reaction it would be difficult to hear, see or feel. Lack of situational awareness is the primary cause of airplane crashes - and you would be no different. Orientation, balance, sense of location and direction all need to be more acute and you must perceive distance and other objects beyond your 'flame zone'.

Optional Secondary Superpower 5 - Clothes

Your superhero might need some clothes, but these will interfere with all the above. They may need to magically appear to maintain decorum.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, some level of invulnerability is the most obvious need. Depending on the speed they can travel (and start and stop), friction and inertia are the biggest obstacles to overcome. $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci May 17 '18 at 14:15
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A slightly different approach for the "fire doesn't push" would be to use the fire to quickly heat air - which then expands, creating a force pushing against anything near it. He would have to heat up air very quickly, so anything said about "explosions" in the other answers would apply there, too ;)

An example for real-world science looking into this is pulsed plasma propulsion - The energy source in your case would be a super instead of a ground-based laser, but the basic principle (superheat the air so much it propels something) would be the same.

Necessary or useful secondary powers:

  • Survive extreme heat (which a pyrokinetic would want anyway^^)

  • survive rapid expansion of gas/plasma (aka super-toughness?)

  • survive high speed flight without protective gear - the super-toughness could take care of this too. Notably, he'd have to withstand high wind speed in his face, and he might want to keep his eyes open to see where he's going

  • survive very LOW temperatures - high-speed flight will mean lots of cooling from all the "wind", and if he tries to fly at high altitudes there'll be low air temperature too

  • breathe in thin atmosphere - if he flies high enough, the air gets thinner. He might not want to carry diving equipment on his flight^^

  • protection for his clothes - was mentioned on other answers already, but a naked flying super would be a bit less impressive than one with his choice of colorful clothing ;)

  • withstanding rapid acceleration - during liftoff, direction changes and landing he'll speed up, change direction or slow down quickly. Normal humans would pass out if this happens too quickly - not needed, but would limit him notably if he didn't have it.

  • improved eyesight and reaction speed - especially if you want him flying quickly or fighting while flying rapidly and changing direction to curve around enemies, these would be good to have. You could just have him go at normal-unaided-human-compatible speeds instead though - probably somewhere around the speed of a car or an old biplane, maybe?

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