James Bond in Thunderball
Four decades after James Bond escaped his Thunderball foes in a jetpack, a British airline pilot is planning a similar escapade with his own rocketbelt.
Stuart Ross will unveil what he claims will be the first British-built jetpack at a secret location this August.
Ross has made nearly 50 flights tethered to the ground by a safety line, but the jetpack will allow him to soar up and away – for at least 30 seconds. “You have to be slightly eccentric to do something like this, but I believe it can be made safe,” he said.
Jetpack enthusiasts have been developing the devices since the Nazis reputedly invented the Himmelsturmer (Skystormer), a rocket-powered backpack designed to lift troops over minefields. The technology was confiscated by the American army in 1945. It decided helicopters could perform the same task more safely and cheaply without the danger of scorching the user’s back.
Ross has spent £100,000 developing his version but credits Bill Suitor, an American engineer, for some of the technical breakthroughs that will allow him to rise hundreds of feet into the air at 60 miles per hour.
Suitor, 64, was the stuntman who flew the jetpack worn by Sean Connery during the 1965 movie Thunderball, although its original sound was replaced by a recording of a fire extinguisher. A global audience watched Suitor flying a jetpack at the opening of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Ross’s 130-pound backpack consists of two fuel tanks filled with hydrogen peroxide, a rocket motor and two downward-facing rocket nozzles.
During early tests in his back garden in Horsham, West Sussex, Ross stayed tied to a wooden frame because, as earlier jetpack pilots have learnt, it is easier to fly than to land. So far he has escaped injury, but fuel spitting out of nozzles at 700°C has cost him several pairs of shoes.
Ross said if he can find a friendly insurance company willing to cover would-be pilots, he is ready to fulfil the dream of Icarus and build a commercial model.