Nelson Tyler/Tyler belt
The first person ever build and free-flown a 100% working and safe rocketbelt besides the Bell types and Bell pilots was Nelson Tyler.
Nelson Tyler with his belt (1987)
Although it was for over 40 years he build his device (excellent engineering,) and always pressed for time as a business man and inventor in vibration-free (aerial) camera mounting. Before I met him face to face in 2006, he was so kind to answer my enormous stack of questions in several telephone calls back in 2004-2005.
His belt did over 900 demonstrations, the most notable one you all do remember:
The opening of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angels (with Bill Suitor as pilot)
Bill Suitor at the opening of the 1984 Olympics
Tyler began in the late ’60 to photograph the Bell rocketbelt and made notes. He red a lot, specially books on H2O2 propelled torpedos, H2O2 books in general and books on astronautical engineering, for the fuel system, supersonic nozzles and valve. He tried several types of valves, by some named as “the secret” of the rocketbelt , but the definite valve easily bought by the same company (NWL) as did sell them to the original Bell rocketbelts for $ 3000 (back in the late 60’s a gigantic investment).
The peroxide (by then only electrolytical peroxide was used for RB flights) was bought by FMC Corporation in the USA . One flight then costs about $ 300 for peroxide (90 % pure)
He did all the engineering and manufacturing by himself, and even the tether for flight practice was build by him self. Later on Bill Suitor helped him with fine tuning and pilot training.
Tyler did some 70 flights on tethered training. He himself made about 120 commercial flights.
In the mean time Bill Suitor was contracted by Tyler to do the flying also. They flew for a Canadian whiskey company, Pabst beer, click here to see the commercial, and roofing company to name some.
Nelson in an Whiskey commercial Bill flying around for a Roofing company
The story on Internet goes that Tyler sold his belt to an attraction park in Denmark , Tivoli Gardens . Wrong !
I extensively mailed them, but what did the people at Tivoli Gardens remember all of thisnothing. I had a complex email conversation with the very willing and kind people of Tivoli Gardens , (thank you Lene Brock Jeppesen ) and it went out that:
- No one in Tivoli Gardens ever heard about The Rocketman and/or the rocketbelt
- They do had and have acrobatic performances, but no stunt drivers or pilots.
On my question if they really did ask the right person, they kindly gave me this answer:
* We checked with the head of our entertainment department. He has been employed in Tivoli since 1983
- We checked with our historical employee
- We checked our archives
- We looked though all the annual reports from the 80’s and did not find any information about a rocketman .
So I did some investigation, and found the right story. It was Gröna Lund attraction park in Sweden who bought the belt from Tyler.
Tyler said to me by telephone that he sold it for big $$. Before that, he trained a young stuntman named Howard “ Kinni ” Gibson
for flying his belt. When he sold the belt, a motorcycle and car stunt driver was sent to Tyler by Gröna Lund attraction park . His name was Johan Thoren. He had to be trained as rocketbelt pilot. Tyler had a big tower with a tether construction to practice, but the Swedish stuntman couldn’t get grip on the belt. He went up and down, sideways and up again, but never got it under control. Gröna Lund attractionpark didn’t knew what to do....no rocketbelt pilot. Kinni Gibson was called back to the US to act as a stunt double, so they didn’t had a pilot to fly their machine. Some kind of arrangement was settled, and Gibson licensed the belt for his own.
Kinni Gibson in his demostrations for Gröna Lund attraction park, performing as the flying Viking.
Special thanks and photo-credits to Mr. Andreas Theve, Gröna Lund historian, and Mr. Owe Hahn.
So, the several stories what happened with the Tyler rocketbelt went on a dead end for so far I did my research. Anyway, Gibson did bought it, and it is still flying in his possession, chopped for parts, hanging in his garage.
By the time Gibson got hold of the belt, there was almost no chance to get the 90% electrolytic peroxide. FMC didn’t sell it anymore, and it was to expensive to custom made it in small quentities. Gibson by then bought his peroxide and the equipment to handle and refine it at Dagussa in Germany .
One of the first test flies with the new peroxide went wrong because of the instability or additives of the peroxide (not the same grade, purity and stability). Gibson felt and broke his knee. With the help of Tyler, who wrote some letters he sewed the peroxide company in Germany , and got big $$ from them.
Nelson Tyler is still involved in design and engineering of rocket motors and his love for rocket- and jetbelts. Like the Thunderpack rocketbelts of Nino Amarena and the David Mayman rocketbelt and new 2015 turbine belt projects (see chapter). Nelson attended the 2006 Rocketbelt convention.