The personalities behind Skyboard


Bob Harris

– engineer, inventor, entrepreneur – engineer, owner of Steelworks International Ltd and inventor of Skyboard

On presenting his idea to University of Canterbury engineering faculty, Bob said to his wife: “I think they think I’m mad” Her reply: “Just wait and see.”
  1. born Cardiff, Wales, emigrated to Oamaru, New Zealand, aged three, with his family.
  2. Educated Waitaki Boys High School, five-year engineering apprenticeship at G T Gillies, Oamaru
  3. Went to sea as ship’s engineer in Merchant Navy
  4. Established Steelworks International 26 years ago and has worked on numerous major heavy engineering projects throughout New Zealand and Australia
  5. Private pilot with aviation in the blood.
  6. Married to Dianne, with two daughters and two grandsons.

The birth of Skyboard

"I made a list of inventions one Sunday in 2001, which I gave to my lawyer John Stubbs, which included some pretty radical ideas about power generation and water purification. But also among these ideas was one for a personalized skydiving glider." Work on designing and engineering Skyboard began July-August 2004. Bob set a tight six-month deadline and Skyboard was ready for its first test on December 21, 2004.



Mark Daniels

( BE (Hons), ME) - Skyboard project engineer

“Skyboard has been a very big effort by all involved and a great deal of respect must be given to Bob Harris and the team at Steelworks for undertaking such a challenging project and attempting something that is rather unique.”
  1. Joined the Skyboard team in July-August 2004, while a Master of  Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Canterbury, to carry out initial concept investigation and report on Skyboard’s feasibility.
  2. His initial conclusion: The geometry and operation parameters desired had a fair chance of being achieved”.
  3. Developed prototype design and was instrumental in construction of remote controlled model which was wind tested at the University of Canterbury and then field tested, followed by key work on final prototype.
  4. Is already looking towards the next stage, which he describes as an “optimal vehicle that will show the potential of the concept”.



Paul Smith

-  tandem skydiver chief instructor, military and civilian parachute designer, pilot and current Skyboard test pilot

  1. based in Wollongong Australia
  2. has made 11,700 jumps (including 700 test jumps)
  3. flown over 25 types of aircraft
  4. designed the internationally successful overland helicopter banner system
  5. “The Skyboard concept would certainly be a world leader in the extreme sport market. It has a lot of potential in a market in which New Zealand has set the standard”.



Jonathan King

– specialist parachute advisor and technical photographer

  1. From Taupo, New Zealand
  2. Double world free-fall champion
  3. Wearing a parachute suit films Skyboard in flight
  4. “Watching Skyboard gave me goosebumps. I couldn’t  believe what I was seeing,’’ 



Peter Sherris

– Steelworks International fitter-welder and key Skyboard engineer

  1. lives in Timaru
  2. Key person in building of Skyboard bodyshell
  3. Likes to know exactly what’s going on with Skyboard at all times – intensely loyal to project
  4. “It’s an awesome project to be involved in. I want to stick with it as we prove it will work – I know it will, these things just take time.”
  5. Would rather watch Skyboard from the ground, but reckons could be persuaded to take to the air in it “if we put an engine in it!”



David Holland

– Steelworks Internatinal fitter-welder and Skyboard engineer

  • lives in Temuka
  • Has played key role in manufacturing Skyboard
  • “I’ve contributed to the building of Skyboard – something I’d never have believed I’d be doing until now.”