MI6 caught up with Paul Brown earlier this month
to discuss his new book "The Rocketbelt Caper"
and the infamous Thunderball jetpack...
The Rocketbelt Caper - Paul Brown Interview
18th August 2005
James Bond meets the Coen Brothers in this
riveting true story of three friends and their quest to
build a Buck Rogers-style flying machine - the amazing Rocketbelt
2000. Perhaps the least incredible thing about their tale
is that they succeeded in building and flying their futuristic
device. But their obsession with the rocketbelt shattered
their friendship and set in motion an astonishing chain
of events involving theft, deception, violent assault, a
bizarre kidnapping, a ten million dollar lawsuit, and a
horrifically brutal murder.
"Blame Buck Rogers, and James
Bond, and Commando Cody, and the Jetsons. It was their fault
that everyone wanted a rocketbelt."
Why did you decide to write a reference book exploring
the Rocket Belt?
I wrote a feature article for UK magazine JACK about
a bizarre murder mystery involving a rocketbelt. I uncovered
much more information than I could use in one article, plus
I had a very positive response when it was published. So
I decided to write a book about the rocketbelt - the murder
mystery plus a full history of rocketbelts.
Above: Bill Suitor wears the Tyler
Rocketbelt at the Los Angeles Olympics, 1984 (courtesy Bill
Suitor, photo Liz Tyler)
How long did you spend research and writing this book? Did
you structure your research and writing practices?
It took about six months off and on. I'm pretty strict with
myself when I'm writing - I must write 1,000 words every day,
otherwise I don't get to go to bed!
"We finished the rocketbelt, and
from then on there was murder, kidnapping, and all kinds of other
Above: 20 year old Bill Suitor flys
the Rocketbelt in Paris
The Rocketbelt Caper also reveals the secret
history of the rocketbelt, and the pioneering men who built
and piloted it. The iconic device - a rocket-powered backpack
that allows the wearer to fly - was developed for real by
the US Army in the 1960s, and famously appeared in the opening
sequence of the James Bond movie Thunderball, and at the
1984 Olympics in LA. Drawn from exclusive interviews with
those most closely involved, this is the full incredible
true story of the amazing rocketbelt.
Is there any material you omitted from the book? If
so why was it omitted?
Not really, although there were a couple of unsubstantiated
claims and theories regarding the rocketbelt murder that
I didn't feel needed to be repeated.
What range of material/facilities/people did you utilize?
I interviewed many people from the world of rocketbelts.
Unfortunately, rocketbelt inventor Wendell Moore is no longer
with us, but I managed to get in touch with Bill Suitor, the world's
most experienced rocketbelt pilot, who was one of the guys in
Thunderball. I spoke with a lot of people involved in the Rocketbelt
2000 caper, plus people who are currently building their own rocketbelts.
called me at my office in Fort Smith,’ he said. ‘I
remember specifically the call. It was probably eight o’clock
at night. She said, “Joe Wright was murdered."
Which was the most interesting aspect of research and
why? With such a fascinating history, what was the most
surprising discover of the book?
IInitially, it was a surprise to find that the rocketbelt
was a real, working device. From there on there were many
surprises, including the fact that there are many people
out there building their own rocketbelts, and we may one
day all have one!
"The film crew had already
shot close-up footage of Sean Connery wearing a dummy belt
in the previous month..."
was 41, old enough and wise enough to realize James Bond
was gonna be big, and he was willing to share it with me."
When researching the James Bond connection to the Rocket
Belt? Did you discover any new information or images?
Yes, Bill Suitor gave me the full story of how he
and fellow pilot Gordon Yaeger performed six flights for
the movie, which were edited to create the scene you see
in the movie.
The producers asked him to fly without a helmet, but he
refused, so close-ups scenes of Sean Connery flying the
belt had to be reshot with a helmet. The full story is all
there in the book. Suitor said that unfortunately he never
actually got to meet Connery.
"The Rocketbelt Caper" £8.99
"The Rocketbelt Caper" "$17.95
Left: Cover of Paul Brown's "The
How were you involved in the Bond series?
Interviewed the Rocketbelt men!
What was your first ever Bond experience?
Watching one of the Connery movies as a kid, maybe Dr No.
What did you think of the last film, "Die Another
I thought it was one of the weaker movies, although the
rocketbelt does make an appearance in Q's workshop! (The
Bourne Supremacy was much better - director Paul Greengrass
would make a brilliant Bond movie.)
What is your favourite Bond film?
On Her Majesty's Secret Service, despite George Lazenby.
Who is your favourite Bond?
Which Bond girl should come back?
What is your favourite Bond moment from the series?
Ursula Andress coming out of the ocean.
Bell Textron Jetpack Q-Branch Coverage
Rocketbelt Caper website