Jet Pack Throwback-The Bell Textron Rocket Belt

By Bell Textron

From starring in James Bond's Thunderball to flying in the 1984 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Los Angeles, jet packs have always enamoured audiences. A flying human attached to a backpack-like machine would even stun crowds in 2018 - the year of futuristic flying transportation. As air taxis, jet packs and other new forms of flying start to become the centre of every technology company's focus, we look back on the world's first jet pack: the Bell Textron Rocket Belt.

The man behind the flying machine was Wendell Moore, a Bell Aerospace engineer who came up with the idea to place rocket thrusters on the nose and wings of the Bell X-1 airplane, which Chuck Yeager flew to break the sound barrier. His work on the Bell X-1 gave him the idea to develop a machine that would place rocket thrusters on a man's body.

The belt Moore designed resembled a backpack, carrying two tanks of hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen and weighing 120 pounds. According to science reporter Brian Malow, "The nitrogen pushes the hydrogen peroxide propellant into a chamber where it mixes violently with a catalyst, producing a high-pressure steam that flows out the twin nozzles to provide thrust." The average flight of the jet pack allows passengers to float in the air for 21 seconds.

Moore enlisted Bill Suitor, a young kid who used to cut Moore's lawn, to become the first trainee to fly the jet pack. Practicing in a hangar 60 feet tall, the 19-year old learned how to become the first flying man. Afterwards, Suitor performed the flight as a demonstration to pilots across the country and even in the hit James Bond movie, "Thunderball."

Yes, Sean Connery does look great flying away from two bad guys but it was actually Suitor and stuntman Gordon Yeager who flew the rocket belt in those movie shots. Overall, Suitor amassed 1,200 flights in 35 years, adding up to six and a half hours of flight.

Bill Suitor Photo © Smithsonian Magazine

From Bell Aerospace Co. to Bell Helicopter, innovation remains a core focus of the business. At one time, the Bell Textron Rocket Belt stunned the audiences with its ability to literally make a man fly. Even though the jet pack remains a past success, Bell Helicopter maintains the same goal: to produce the latest and greatest technology that changes the way we think about aviation. After all, we have done it before.

Man's Greatest Inventions

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