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 stuff."

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.

"She 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..."



"Gordon 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.

Buy "The Rocketbelt Caper" £8.99
Buy "The Rocketbelt Caper" "$17.95

Left: Cover of Paul Brown's "The Rocketbelt Caper"

00-Seven Questions

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 Day"?
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?
Sean Connery

Which Bond girl should come back?
Caroline Cossey!

What is your favourite Bond moment from the series?
Ursula Andress coming out of the ocean.

Related Articles
"Thunderball" Coverage
"Thunderball" Bell Textron Jetpack Q-Branch Coverage
"Official Rocketbelt Caper website