The sound was like the roar of a jet engine, piercing and unbelievably loud. Once I heard the shrill, felt the heat, smelled the fuel and saw the flames… I knew that this Rocket-Man and his suit were the real deal.
We’d travelled from Brighton to the Lagoona Park Jet Ski Centre in Reading to witness a Guinness World Record attempt. As Guinness World Record holders ourselves, we’d been asked to help facilitate this event and had been working towards this day for several months – not that organising a world record attempt can be classed as work!
The idea for the world Record attempt was that of Richard Browning. The founder of and pilot at Gravity Industries Limited, i.e. Richard was Rocket-Man, and he would be attempting to set the speed record for jet-powered suit flying.
We arrived at Lagoona Park to find a whole host of people, from the timing crew, to the Guinness Officials, a group of engineering students, family members and Richard’s support team along with reporters, videographers and even a choreographer whose job it was to make sure that everything was executed according to plan.
Once Richard appeared in his suit, we were all in awe. Would it work? Would he actually be able to fly? Would he be able to set a Guinness World Record? But once we heard that sound – all of those questions seemed to be answered before Richard even lifted a foot off the ground.
The first attempt was nothing short of jaw dropping. Even the Guinness Officials who have “seen it all” were officially amazed. While Richard only reached an average speed of just over 20 miles per hour during this first attempt, his main objective for the flight was achieved. And to be honest, reaching any speed in a flight suit is impressive!
After making some minor adjustments, he was ready for his next attempt. His suit was checked and re-checked by his assistant, making sure that the rocket strapped to his back was cleared for take-off. The second attempt yielded an average speed of 24 miles per hour, not yet what Richard was hoping to achieve…
Looking to find a better balance between height, speed and weight throughout the journey, Richard consulted with the engineering students on the premises. The results of the modifications returned the results Richard was seeking, and the change was obvious. With an increase in confidence came an increase in speed, and when an average of 28 miles per hour was recorded, he knew that he was ready to give it his all on the next attempt.
Feeling good, and perhaps a little too confident, Richard set off for his fourth attempt. Flying low across the water it was almost as if he was a stone skimming across the lagoon. Things were going well, very well, until he attempted to make a sharp turn in order to head back.
From the distance, what the crowd was witnessing at the other end of the lake was almost as unbelievable as seeing the rocket-man fly, but seeing him crash was surreal. With the splash of the water, all of our hearts sunk with Richard. We knew what it meant – his attempts at setting the Guinness World Record were over.
As the owner of the Lagoona Park Jet Ski Centre made his way over for the rescue, we all held our breath until we knew for sure that Richard was OK. As the Jet Ski reached the beach, Richard actually had a smile on his face. He knew that he had given it his all in the attempt to be the “Fastest Speed in a Body Controlled Jet Engine Powered Suit”.
In the end, Richard was awarded the Guinness World Record, reaching an average land speed of just over 32 miles per hour!