Wiliam P.(Bill) Suitor, the real rocketman . Where to start with this icon of rocketbelts ?
He was the 19 year old neighbor of the inventor of the rocketbelt , Wendell Moore. He used to take his rocketbelt device home after work, and there it took the attention of William "Bill" Suitor. He was at school becoming an architect. But things did not well at school, and Moore asked Suitor to be a test pilot for the Bell Aerosystems rocketbelt .
Bill Suitor, the rocketbelt icon
Why would Moore asked a 19 year old boy to become a test pilot for a flight device:
Bill had 3 big advantages:
He had the average draft age of 19 He had no experience at all in aviation He was of normal height and weight.
Remember folks: Bell was developing a flight device for the Army, so non skilled, average boys must be able to flight the belt.
After Harold Graham did retire in 1962 as a rocketbelt pilot Peter Kedziersky , Robert Courter and Gordon Yeager had the honors to be the very few rocketbelt pilots ever lived. There walked more men on the moon then men fly with rocketbelts !
Bell hired Bill in 1964 and Bill learned to fly the belt, first tethered, where he once was "ballooned" when something went wrong (broken steering stick) when flying, later untethered.
Bill as the Bell Aerosystems rocketbelt icon. 1965 Disneyland demonstrations
He did numerous flights and the most famous world-wide demonstrations such as the stunt-double in the James Bond movie " Thunderball ", with his team mate Gordon Yeager "Gordy"
Captures of the opening sequence of Thunderball
Special card on the 36th anniversary of Thunderball
Bill with the original Bell belt he flew for Thunderball back in 1992
The most known by us all : The opening of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, with the Nelson Tyler owned and build rocketbelt.
Kinni Gibson, now Director for Powerhouse, was teached by Bill Suitor, and was working for Nelson Tyler that time, flying his rocketbelt at different demonstrations worldwide.
But when you are making a rocketbelt demonstration before 1,5 billion TV spectators, and a crowd filled Olympic Stadium, nothing must go wrong.
That's why Nelson Tyler decided to hire Bill Suitor, instead of Kinni Gibson (his contracted rocketbelt pilot) to be absolute sure he had the best and most experienced rocketbelt pilot there was. The rest is history folks, and Bill became the official Olympic Rocketman, a title he still ows.
Bill Suitor moments before he made his historical flight as The Olympic Rocketman
Olympic rocketman Bill Suitor
Bill did over 1.200 flights, about 90 kilometers by calculation and 7 ,5 hours of 22 second flights, a record still standing on his name. Bill also holds world records on distance, speed and human elevation, meaning take off and landing on the same spot.
He is the only man on earth who flew all the existing belts until 1996, and did test flying for NASA on the Bell Lunar Transportation POGO.
I know quite some builders, and what better credentials can you have than letting Bill make your test flights? I don't know.
Bill flying the RB2000 at the Houston ship canal 1995.
Bill Suitor now is retired, but very busy. One of his hobbies is making beautiful wood carvings,
and more (wooden) craftmanship, which he sells at exhibitions.
Hand carved Manta and hand made Helms.
To be continued.....
Bill Suitor on the right, Nelson Tyler on the left, lucky me in the middle
Bill refurbishing the Bell RB-3 at his home.