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October 09, 2006

Rocket Man [Retired Geezer]

Hey, it ain't no Flyin' Car but it's pretty cool. News from the first Rocketbelt Convention.

In April 20, 1961, Harold Graham made history by being the first person to achieve liftoff using a rocketbelt—a rocket-powered "jet pack" that straps on the flyer's back.

1961? Ace weren't even alive back then.

Flying with a rocketbelt is extremely dangerous. The would-be aviator must strap a contraption onto his back that includes two large tanks filled with highly combustible fuel, concentrated "rocket-grade" hydrogen peroxide. The flier turns a motorcyclelike hand throttle that opens a valve and releases nitrogen into the two tanks, which causes the fuel to expand to 5,000 times its size. The fuel is then forced through a catalyst pack and converted to steam that can reach 1,300 degrees, providing enough power to thrust itself and the person wearing it into the air.

1,300 degrees! Better not let your feet flap around too much, Skippy.

Bill Suitor, the most traveled rocket man in history with 1,200 flights (most famously as a stunt double for Sean Connery in Thunderball), describes the challenge of maintaining stability with a rocketbelt as "trying to stand on a big beach ball in the middle of a swimming pool."

He left out the part about consuming a pint of VRV.

For insiders, the highlight of the conference was a new bit of rocketbelt lore. During a talk to 100 people—and just before debuting on the ukulele an original song he wrote

At last the AoS Lifestyle component is revealed.

Graham for the first time told the story of his only crash. He recounted falling 22 feet and landing on his head during a secret demonstration at Cape Canaveral, a mishap that left him unconscious for half an hour. Graham retired from the rocketbelt biz shortly thereafter.

Well, duh.

All would-be rocketbelters practice on a tethered safety line for months before attempting a free flight. And most never make that flight:

Ready for the Money Quote...
To date, only 11 men in history have free-flown a rocketbelt. More men have walked on the moon.

I bet you thought there were more Rocketeers than that, didn't you.

I know I did.


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posted by Ace at 10:33 AM

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