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Q Branch - Bell Rocket Belts

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)In about 1962 or 1963, Wendell F. Moore, an employee of Bell Aerosystems, in the US, worked on a personal flight system which became know as the Rocket Belt. According to some accounts, it was intended to be portable, and light enough for battlefield use. Moore undertook a series of test flights on a tether (safety) line, his final flight resulting in injury.

Then Harold (Hal) Graham took over pilot duties and after initial training on a tether he performed the first successful free flight on 20 April 1961 near the Niagara Falls Municipal Airport. After a few more test flights the first public demonstration was on 8 June 1961 at Fort Eustis, Virginia. On 15 June two flights were performed on the lawn of the Pentagon then on 13 October Hal performed a demonstration flight for President Kennedy at Fort Bragg.

Other rocket belt pilots were Bob Courtier, Peter Kedseriski and Bill Suitor.

The Bell Rocket Belt is powered by a hydrogen peroxide reaction rocket engine which consists of a tank of compressed liquid nitrogen which pushes hydrogen peroxide out of two other tanks into a reaction chamber. There a chemical reaction creates an extremely hot high pressure stream that escapes from the flight nozzles and propels the unit and pilot.

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)The sound of the rocket is said to be incredibly loud, almost unbearable, and more a scream than something more identifiably a rocket noise. Two hand controls control the pack with considerable accuracy which leads experienced pilots to insist that it flies like a dream.

Although the U.S. military displayed some early interest in the rocket belt concept during the 1960s, the short flight durations and exposure to enemy fire made the belts unappealing as combat tools.

Apart from the Bell Rocket Belt, another rocket pack was designed by Brad Barker and Doug Malewicki. This is the RB2000. It is essentially similar to the Bell model but is able to fly 30 seconds, against the Bell's 20 seconds.

Rocket belt saves 007...The fourth rocket man, Bill Suitor, starred in some films and television. The device made its big-screen debut in the pre-title sequence which traditionally begins James Bond films, in the movie "Thunderball" (pictured right).

The U.S. government built and flew at least one true jet pack during the sixties. It was powered by a small turbine built by Williams Research and had an endurance of approximately 30 minutes. It was abandoned since it was less cost-effective than a helicopter, and required any passenger to be a skilled operator.

Nonetheless, various civilian groups have continued to pursue the concept. Personal packs have the advantage of being able to maneuver in small areas and of getting closer to vertical surfaces than the blades of a helicopter allow. This ability suggests roles in search and rescue, media work, policing and crowd surveillance and control.

More rocket belt links:

Harold (Hal) Graham's website - the man who took the first rocket belt flight

Flat Rock (Imperfect Ideas)

American Rocketman Quick Flight Belt - build your own!

Peter Gijsberts site at www.rocketbelt.nl - requires Flash plug-in.

A variation on the personal flight concept - a strap-on autogyro!
Baumgartl Heliofly I | Baumgartl Heliofly III-57


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