Real-life Iron Man Richard Browning achieving the fastest speed in a body controlled jet engine powered suit at 85.06 mph at Brighton Pier

Human flight has been taken to new record-breaking speeds thanks to the real-life Iron Man who has achieved the fastest speed in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit (wind-guided) at 85.06 mph (136.891 km/h).

British inventor Richard Browning, founder of Gravity Industries, more than doubled the previous record of 32.02 mph (51.53 km/h) which he set two years ago.

With Brighton Pier as his backdrop, and supported by Xperience Days, Richard took to the air in front of crowds and the media as the showpiece event for this year's Guinness World Records Day, which carries the theme "Spirit of Adventure". 

Learn about more record-breaking exploits in the Spirit of Adventure chapter in Guinness World Records 2020

Richard Browning real-life Iron Man

After two attempts, which involved flying to and from a boat at the end of the pier, Richard's new and improved suit - the direction of which is controlled by body movement alone and requires core strength to balance - propelled him to a new record speed.

"I'm really pleased," he declared afterwards. "I was confident we should be able to do it but that’s very different to coming here and actually achieving it, especially when we make our lives complicated by putting several other pilots up as well.

"You can never discount the possibility of having a technical problem, so I’m really pleased we’ve delivered what we’ve done. And that is indeed the fastest I’ve ever gone. In training we were doing about 75 mph so that’s significantly faster.

"I didn’t think we’d break what we did in training so I’m very chuffed."

Real life Iron Man Brighton

The wind and rain which often accompanies a British autumn day held off as Richard completed two-way runs along the pier which were required for the average speed to be taken to even out inconsistencies such as wind speed and direction.

"It’s pretty exhilarating, the adrenalin flows when you’re hammering along over the waves doing that," added Richard, who also explained how he enjoyed the change in scenery for this flight.

"When you’re travelling fast over a grey ocean it’s quite difficult even for me to judge my speed. So having the pier and things like the jetski were really good. 

"Flying alongside the historic pier makes it very special, and actually when you’re flying out over the sea or a lake and there’s nothing there other than a boat to get to, it’s quite a lonely experience. It doesn’t feel so lonely having a pier right there. "

Richard actually broke his 2017 record on his first run out to the boat with a speed of 78.5 mph (48.77 mph). However he and the Gravity team wanted to see if they could go even faster, and ended up topping 85 mph.

Real-life Iron Man jet suit record

Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday praised Richard afterwards. 

"We had expectations he would break the record today," he said. "He wanted to double the record but he’s smashed it. I think it’s a testament to his bravery and spirit of adventure. He embodies that and is a perfect ambassador for Guinness World Records Day."

But what is so different about the suit since they broke the record three years ago? 

"Almost everything!" Richard said. "Now the suit is entirely 3D printed, lighter, stronger and much smarter," which includes the ability to fine tune the power mid-flight, something he describes as "a revolution".

As well as major changes under the skin, the suit now includes a leg wing and leg straights which start to lift Richard "aerodynamically like a plane so more of the power can go to propelling rather than just lifting". 

The suits worn by Richard Browning: 2019 (left) and 2017 (right)

Despite the suit looking very technical and potentially difficult to control, Richard said the only ever nail-biting moments come during testing. 

"Only when testing new developments, especially at speed. You feel how different wing systems behave as you transition into winged flight, skimming over the water, learning in real-time."

However, the majority of the time the suit is easy to control and an amazing flight experience, according to Richard.

"It truly feels like that dream of flying you have sometimes in your sleep. You are entirely and completely free to move effortlessly in three dimensional space and you shed the ties of gravity."

Richard Browning Brighton pier

Unfortunately, for the rest of us, it will be a while before we're flying around with our own body-controlled jet engine powered suit. 

"It's not the future of transportation in its current form. It's a bit like a Formula 1 car or the prices at fashion shows... neither are entirely practical but hopefully an inspiring and engaging insight into what the future might be. The first cars were noisy and unreliable vs a horse, but look where that first step led."

Richard's second attempt does allow Gravity to show how far they've come in two years with more suits able to reach higher speeds.

Richard Browning Brighton Pier sea

"We’ve got several other pilots not even flying today – imagine them racing round a water course. Not going fast in a straight line as such but manoeuvring around obstacles like a Red Bull Air Race. 

"That’s what we’re building towards so this is a nice demonstration of the capabilities we’ve now got."

Read about other achievements celebrated on Guinness World Records Day: