PRESS RELEASE

Innovation Throwback: The Bell Textron Rocket Belt

The history of the world's first jet pack.

02 January 2018

Jet Pack Throwback: The Bell Textron Rocket Belt

From starring in James Bond’s Thunderball to flying in the 1984 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Los Angeles, jet packs have always enamored 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 center 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.

 

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.

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About Bell Helicopter

Bell Helicopter, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., is an industry-leading producer of commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and the pioneer of the revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft. Globally recognized for world-class customer service, innovation and superior quality, Bell’s global workforce serves customers flying Bell aircraft in more than 120 countries.

About Textron Inc.

Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company that leverages its global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses to provide customers with innovative solutions and services. Textron is known around the world for its powerful brands such as Bell Helicopter, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Greenlee, Textron Off Road, Arctic Cat, Textron Systems, and TRU Simulation + Training. For more information visit: www.textron.com.

Certain statements in this press release are forward-looking statements which may project xrevenues or describe strategies, goals, outlook or other non-historical matters; these statements speak only as of the date on which they are made, and we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, changes in aircraft delivery schedules or cancellations or deferrals of orders; the efficacy of research and development investments to develop new products or unanticipated expenses in connection with the launching of significant new products or programs; the timing of our new product launches or certifications of our new aircraft products; our ability to keep pace with our competitors in the introduction of new products and upgrades with features and technologies desired by our customers; changes in government regulations or policies on the export and import of our products; volatility in the global economy or changes in worldwide political conditions that adversely impact demand for our products; volatility in interest rates or foreign exchange rates; risks related to our international business, including relying on joint venture partners, subcontractors, suppliers, representatives, consultants and other business partners in connection with international business, including in emerging market countries; and continued softness or volatility in the markets in which we do business.