Go behind the scenes as Adam Savage tests an Iron Man suit that really flies

For his new show Savage Builds, the former MythBuster sees how hard it is to be Tony Stark. And CNET was there.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Lots of people dream of suiting up like Iron Man and shooting to the skies. Count former MythBusters co-host Adam Savage among them.

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Adam Savage and the Iron Man suit. "I hope this thing will fly." 


For Savage Builds, his new eight-part series focused on extreme engineering, Savage recruited a team from the science-focused Colorado School of Mines to build him an Iron Man suit made largely from 3D-printed titanium. The idea was to power it with a jetpack from Gravity Industries, run by Savage's buddy, UK inventor Richard Browning. Five 1,000-horsepower mini jet engines strapped to the body power the exoskeleton. 

"It sounds like hyperbole, but I swear… if Tony Stark was not fictional and he was building an Iron Man suit right now, this is precisely how he would do it and this is the exact technology he'd be using," Savage told a CNET camera crew that spent two days with him as he attempted to learn to fly like Iron Man in an airplane hangar east of San Francisco.

On Friday's premiere episode of Savage Builds, Savage puts on the shiny silver contraption but doesn't feel comfortable enough (yet) to wear it and test the jetpack at the same time. Browning does, however, and manages to hover about 15 feet (4.5 meters) above the ground. Granted, he doesn't hover above skyscrapers or zip to other planets, but his feat will surely give a lift to superhero hopefuls looking to become the next Tony Stark.

"That was the most fun I've ever had with 1,000 horsepower in my whole life," Savage said after the test flight. "That was astounding."

Watch this: Building a real flying Iron Man Suit with Adam Savage

In addition to titanium components, the suit has parts made from urethane, fiberglass and 3D-printed nylon. It also has hinged joints and jointed fingers. Because Savage didn't just want to fly like Iron Man. He wanted to look like him.

Savage Builds airs on the Discovery Channel before airing again on the Science Channel. Savage will focus on a single project per episode. In one, he'll attempt to create a working version of one of history's most notorious engineering failures -- Panjandrum, the British military's World War II rocket-propelled explosive weapon. In another, he'll experiment with highly volatile liquid nitroglycerin. Because that's what you do when you're a maker/tinkerer/questioner who builds and blows things up in the name of science. 

"This new series is a culmination of sorts, as I get to work with some of the most brilliant minds out there as we attempt to solve really absurd ideas that I've had in my head for a long time, but have never had the opportunity to dive into," Savage said when announcing the new show. "Of course, the most absurd ideas are often what generates the most innovative engineering."

Originally published June 15.