He might not look like an Art Deco cockroach or go home to Jennifer Connelly, but there actually is a real-life Rocketeer. He’s Kinnie Gibson, 35, Hollywood stuntman and self-proclaimed ”Rocket Man” — pilot of the world’s only working rocket pack. About 50 times a year, Gibson heads for the clouds.
His 85-pound ”flying belt” was developed by Nelson Tyler in 1965. Visiting Disneyland, the inventor saw a military rocket pack developed by Bell Aerospace (and used in the 1965 Bond flick Thunderball). Using photos and technical texts, he proceeded to build his own. The Rocket Man has flown Tyler’s hydrogen peroxide-fueled pack around the Egyptian pyramids, at the Super Bowl, and on the TV series CHiPs and The Fall Guy and says he’ll likely perform at the Barcelona Olympics. An appearance (booked through his company, North Hollywood-based Powerhouse Productions) can cost up to $25,000.
After some 375 flights, Gibson likens the experience to riding ”a magic carpet. It’s a very smooth, floaty feeling. It’s almost like you enter another dimension.”
Given his unusual perspective — only 12 pilots have flown rocket packs — Gibson can afford to be charitable toward the Disney flick: ”It works for 99.9 percent of the population.” Tyler adds, ”What boy wouldn’t want a rocket belt…and a girl like that?”