Behold—the future. With jetpacks!
And Disney's take on the same theme, from 1966. 😎
Disney's demo came courtesy of the Bell Aerosystems SRLD—Small Rocket Lift Device—arguably history's most successful jetpack.
This was the result of a mid-1950s U.S. Army contract, somebody's pipe dream of a future straight out of the Rocketeer or the 1950's Commander Cody.
Bell relied on proven technology, hydrogen peroxide thrusters already used as reaction control jets on NASA's early spacecraft, the Mach 6+ X-15, and the ill-fated NF-104 featured in my Dec 6 post. Pressurized hydrogen peroxide—pure, not the 3% concentration drug store variety—is run over a silver mesh catalyst, triggering the exothermic production of 1,364° F/740° C steam and oxygen. 🤓
While reliable, hydrogen peroxide motors are thirsty. As in 5 gallons/19 liters of fuel = 21 seconds of flight thirsty. The 125-lb/57-kg jetpack generated 280 lbs/1.25 kN of thrust. Throttle was the right handle, with the left grip for lateral thrust vectoring; pushing or pulling both grips simultaneously tilted the nozzles fore/aft. Max altitude was 33 feet/10 meters, max speed a mere 34 mph/55 km/h. Glide slope: Zero.
Stability was predictably tricky. In an early flight the pack snapped its tether and broke the kneecap of lead engineer/pilot Wendell Moore. In 1964, William Suitor—Moore's 19-year-old neighbor—was recruited as pilot, fulfilling an army contract stipulation (and countless childhood dreams) to train someone of draft age with no flying experience.
Suitor and the jet pack made appearances at Disneyland, in the James Bond movie, Thunderball; and on TV for Lost in Space and Gilligan's Island. The high point was the 1984 Olympic opening ceremonies, with a live/TV audience of 2.5 billion people. 😎
Surprisingly, Suitor went on to log more than 1,000 flights without mishap. All of them under 21 seconds, with a max range of just 390 feet/120 meters. Sadly, not exactly production ready. But plans were published in 2000. And in 2009 Suitor published a book, the Rocketbelt Pilot's Manual, with step-by-step flying lessons—you can hunt it down on Amazon. 🤓
#veloxmachina - 45 minutes ago