October 7, 2006 Exotic Thermo Engineering (aka the Swiss Rocketman, Arnold Neracher) looks set to put rocketbelts seriously on the map in the near future when he unveils a rocketbelt that will fly for a full six minutes. Neracher recently set a record for rocketbelt flight duration when one of his designs flew for a full minute, more than double the traditional maximum, but earlier this week he confirmed that he is constructing a rocketbelt that will fly for six minutes. Neracher is currently testing the new machine under tethered flight conditions with pilot Yves Rossi but did not confirm whether the video posted on his site was the machine he expected to fly for six minutes.
A Swiss medical and chemical engineering consultant, Neracher has been working on rocket engines for two decades and even makes his own hydrogen peroxide fuel – it is his knowledge of exotic fuels which is believed to be the secret to the flight duration. His engines and advanced technologies have powered go-karts, bicycles (amazing video here), dragsters, motorcycles and jet belts previously, but if Neracher achieves this goal, and we have no reason to doubt him as he generally hits his targets, the rocketbelt could finally achieve viability and would almost certainly find military application. Building a viable rocketbelt was first attempted by the German Army during WWII as the "Himmelstürmer" (Skystormer) and the first working rocket belt was built by Bell for the U.S. Army in the 1950s. Bell’s rocketbelt created mainstream awareness in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball and raised expectations of consumer versions when it was used in the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics. But 50 years after the Bell Rocket Belt was built, only a handful of people have flown a rocketbelt, only one commercial version is available (at US$250,000) and only two companies (here and here) have successfully commercialised demonstrations. Neracher will change all that if he can achieve six minutes of powered flight. Gizmag’s Billy Paul recently attended the First Annual Rocketbelt Convention at the Niagara Falls Aerospace Museum in New York, USA. Read his report here.