The human most akin to Marvel superhero Iron Man is using Lagoona Park near Reading to take his pioneering aeronautical engineering feat – a Jet Suit – to the next level.
On Guinness World Records Day 2017, inventor and founder of Gravity Industries Richard Browning, broke the world record for the fastest speed (32.02mph) in a body-controlled Jet Suit at the 25-acre lake, which is located within the Englefield Estate at Pingewood.
Since then, the lake has been a training ground for the 39-year-old former Royal Marines Reservist who is using its aqua park to train teams of Jet Suit pilots in preparation for the launch of Gravity’s International Race Series this year.
“Because of its size, Lagoona Park lake was great for the world record attempt, and it’s also centrally located to our pool of pilots,” said Browning, who has flying in his blood – he’s the son of an inventor and aeronautical engineer, while his paternal grandfather was an airline pilot and wartime fighter pilot and his maternal grandfather ran a British helicopter manufacturer.
“The lake is where we test our race obstacles, the Jet Suit’s capabilities, try out faster, new manoeuvres and train new pilots for long distance flights. It is a good environment to innovate,” continued Browning, a former City oil trader. “The pilots go through stages of flight training, beginning with very low power tethered hovers and gradually evolving to an intermediate level of flight control involving more intricate flight paths, manoeuvring around obstacles and flying alongside other pilots, eventually progressing to International Race Series standard.”
He added: “Training over water is much safer than over land, and we have multiple jet skis following the flight path.”
Browning and his team are making history in pioneering the future of human flight. Starting out as a “fun experiment” in 2016, Browning and a small team developed the prototype Jet Suit over 15 months, founding Gravity Industries in 2017.
The Jet Suit is powered by four kerosene-fuelled micro gas turbines attached to the pilot’s hands and one on their back. It is for sale with a price tag of c.£340,000. Gravity industries is inspiring a new generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) enthusiasts and pioneering innovation through unconventional methods. “Gravity has given me the chance to see opportunity where other people see boundaries, to believe that anything is possible, to accept failure, knowing I can recover from it and to truly be myself without fear of being judged,” said Browning.
In the first 18 months of the Jet Suit’s creation, Browning flew at 70 events in more than 20 countries. Intrigue is increasing as Gravity’s profile continues to rise globally and the “real life Iron Man” is more in demand than ever: Browning has recently showcased his Jet Suit at the Wired to Wear exhibition opening at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, the 70th anniversary of the Yokohama DeNa BayStars in Japan, and events in Prague and New York where the team launched the first 3D printed Jet Suit. A busy event line-up for the remainder of 2019 awaits.
Created in 2017, Lagoona Park is one of the largest inflatable aqua parks in Europe and is close to Browning’s home. As well as the jet ski lake and aqua park, the venue also features a dirt buggy circuit, watercraft storage, and a bar and grill.
Andrew McLeod-Ross, who runs the Park and drove the safety jet ski when Browning broke his world record, added: “It’s nice to be able to support Richard’s pioneering work here and it’s really impressive to watch, but I wouldn’t want to give it a go! He really does look like Iron Man when he’s flying across the lake.”
Photograph courtesy of Gravity Industries.