“A risk worth taking”. Richard Browning is Born to Engineer

September 27, 2019

Flight is something that’s deeply inspiring Since mankind first walked out of a cave and looked up at what the birds could do That extreme form of complete freedom As a kid I used to spend a lot of time with my father making model gliders and standing on hillsides and throwing these gliders off the hill I’ve always been somebody who has been inspired by seeing potential ideas no one’s gone and done and wonder what it’d be like to get over that particular line Mankind’s attempts at flight for the last hundred years have largely revolved around putting human beings inside flight vehicles The challenge was could we apply a different approach? Could we lean as much as possible on the brain as the flight control computer? Could we then add just the right amount of horsepower to get the human being off the ground? But also employ the arms to be able to manage and manipulate that power? What can I do right now that starts to get me on that road towards proving or disproving this concept? And for us that was literally getting an aluminium tube that I could stick my arm in And then within a few weeks we had one of these gas turbines mounted on that tube and then there’s the footage of us standing in a lane with a mop bucket with the fuel tank inside it actually running this engine and feeling that power That was the point when this went from an idea that wasn’t supposed to be possible to one that clearly was Something that I think is responsible for why we’ve made such rapid progress is really all about learning from safe failure Ten minutes from making a modification here in the lab we can be out there testing it And if that involves falling from a couple of feet onto either boarding or even concrete You assess quickly – what’s the risk of that? If you’re reasonably well-padded and armoured-up then actually that’s a risk worth taking These gas turbines, the ones on my arms they only weigh less than two kilos each They put out 22 kilos of thrust each The engine on the back is even more powerful than two put together We’re rolling with about 1,050 horsepower across the entire suit This is where I used to come with my father I had that close time with my Dad here He would absolutely love this if he was around today We’re testing flying in some interesting, gusty and quite turbulent conditions As you go You stand when you’re ready to take off You instigate start You can hear six little solenoids tick over as the fuel valves open The engines then build as more fuel goes in You get to about 30,000 RPM and that’s a lot of noise At that moment, you know there’s no going back You hold your arms out You squeeze that trigger So you lower your arms down You feel the weight come off your feet Gradually, gradually until the ground disappears And suddenly despite being at the core of all of that fury It goes peaceful You simply just think about where you want to go and you just go there It is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced Engineering is critical to nearly everything we rely on around us It’s a wonderful journey of creativity of turning an idea even a fanciful idea into something tangible that actually can go and change people’s lives It’s one of the most rewarding and amazing career paths that you can take

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