Three man and their dream of flight. One ended up dead, one is in jail for years, one got a $10 million law suit against his partner. beatings, kidnapping, FBI involvement and more. And still their invention is missing. Sounds like a new Hollywood movie ? No it really happened ! Two business partners, Thomas Laurence " Larry" Stanley and Bradley "Brad" Wayne Barker teamed together and made plans to make a rocketbelt
Stanley and Barker borrowed a lot of money from their mothers and began to work on the belt. Both split the costs 50-50. Stanley with much experience on aeronautics did the engineering and constructing at his home in Sugarland, Texas and Barker purchased the machinery and parts. Some of the dimensions were given to Stanley by Barker. Barker was the keeper of the secret, remember. They later teamed up with a third man, Joe Wright, who had a car stereo shop, and was a friend of Barker.
But after a while Stanley did discover that Barker was wrong and lied. The secret was NOT in the throttle valve, but he kept on working at the belt. He was right, and shortly after the construction, a machine shop owner warned Stanley that his partner Joe Wright was a wealthy guy, and Barker wanted him in the first place to be his business partner, but the two didn't have the knowledge to engineer and build a belt. Barker lures $ 50.000 from Wright for a 5% share in rocketbelt business. Wright even gave Stanley and Barker a working space at his company, Car Audio Plus in Houston . The American Rocket Belt Corporation was born. In the mean time, suspicion took over. Stanley never saw any receipts and Barker charged a $ 5.500 bill to Stanley for $ 11.000. This was not a loose cannon, Stanley heard more similar stories from different machinists and shop owners. So he paid everything for the parts and pieces, while Barker lived from the money Wright and others gave him. Stanley was not invited to the test flight (January 22, 1995) and filed a lawsuit against Barker and Wright. At one time Barker hit Stanley with a led mallet on the head. hospitalising him. Stanley saw the belt for the last time the day he was hitting on the head by Barker.
A few months later Stanley heard the RB2000 had made a demonstration for the celebration of the 1995 NBA championship of the Houston Rockets on June 12. And after test-pilot Bill Suitor gave back the belt after the first and only public demonstration, the RB2000 and fuelling Van vanished. Later on Joe Wright was murdered in his house, beaten up with a blunt object. The killer is unknown until now. After this, more law suits, kidnapping life time jail sentences and much much more happened. If you want to know more, read Paul Brown's excellent book "The Rocketbelt Caper" (see book chapter)
Joes sister Nancy lectured on the RB2000 case during the 2006 RBC, discussing the story and giving her opinions.
The Rocketbelt 2000, nick named "the pretty bird" is still missing (februari 2016)