Last Monday afternoon the North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team and four paramedics from the NHS Incident Support Unit met at Watchet to conduct a twilight exercise to rescue a volunteer ‘casualty’ with a broken leg. So just a regular training session and nothing unusual you may say, but the presence of ‘Iron Man’ and jet suit pioneer Richard Browning turned this into a very dramatic occasion, designed to demonstrate how much faster a bird-man with four rockets on his back can reach an injured person in the middle of the moor, compared to searching on foot. Richard is the chief test-pilot of Gravity Industries, the company he formed in 2017 to develop and promote internationally the uses of jet suit travel – by the way, if you fancy a suit yourself keep an eye on the Selfridges website where they have been on sale for £340,000 each, although at the moment it says ‘currently out of stock’!

After an hour and a half of briefings and reconnaissance in the cold gusty 40mph wind Richard made the short one minute flight to the casualty in the twilight, landed, role-played administering first aid and radio-directed the paramedics and NDSR to the scene. I loitered nearby waiting for the jet man to arrive. I knew he was coming from the roar of the jets (headphones advised) on the other side of the hill. All of a sudden he was in sight, skimming over the moor with lights directed downwards, an alien in mid air. Alongside him was a drone, locked onto him, filming his flight. Touchdown, even in the gusty wind, was lightness itself and perfectly balanced. The paramedics duly arrived and took over treatment of the casualty. At the de-briefing everyone seemed happy with the exercise although, as the rescued body said, ‘I’d advise the jet suit to land a good way off. A real casualty in the middle of the moor could be even more traumatised by the unexpected noise and appearance of something that looks like it’s come from outer space.’

The poor quality photo shown here of Richard arriving at the casualty is taken from the film I shot – watch out for this on YouTube soon.

Chris Walpole