Ever since the Wright brothers developed their airplane that flew (on my birthday 22 years before I was born) and Henry Ford set up production lines for his Model T flivvers, people have been dreaming of flying automobiles.
So far the skies are filled with airplanes and the freeways are filled with cars, but they are two different species.
Now, in a magazine called The Future of Everything, I found an article by Dan Neil, who primarily reviews the latest cars for the Wall Street Journal, reporting he has test flown an electric aerial vehicle that he calls an aeromobiles-aeros. The headline on the story warns readers not to call them “flying cars.”
The new generation of aeros are vertical-take-off-and-landing vehicles, or VTOLs.
What he tested was a Kitty Hawk Flyer.
“Kitty Hawk has set up its base on the sunny shore of Lake Las Vegas in Nevada, a sort of training range and party spot, with a beached houseboat for a reception area and paddleboards sprinkled amid the Quonset-like hangars,” he wrote.
He explained “The single-seat open-cockpit, 10 rotor machine is designed to give civilian guests – VC funders, policy makers, even car reviewers – a first taste of VTOL flight. Kitty Hawk’s management believes the aeromobile industry’s long play requires building grass-roots support. Actually, with only a 20-minute flight time, the Flyer isn’t good for much more than evangelizing.”
Five of the rotors turn clockwise and the other five spin counterclockwise to provide stability during the flight.
He wrote, you would have to very dull not to see the potential of aeromobility, bat-out-of-hell aeromobile?
“What if an UberAir could pick you up in Santa Monica and drop you off on the slopes of the Big Bear 30 minutes later? The commercial possibilities are beyond the dreams of avarice,” Neil wrote.
“Kitty Hawk’s visiting greenhorns, myself included, are restricted to an area over the lake about the size of a football field. Theoretically the Flyer’s pontoons permit water landing, but it seems as if the rotor wash would drown you in spray,” he warned.
Neil describes the flight perimeters, “The Flyer sits on a floating dock, which serves as a helipad. In my hands are two controls, the up-and-down thumb switch in my left, controlling altitude; the Nintendo-like joystick in my right, controlling direction. There is zero instrumentation in the cockpit.”
The Kitty Hawk Flyer does not have landing gear, just two pontoons.
A computer adjusts vehicle attitude by altering rotor speeds.
The company is developing a larger air taxi, Cora.
It would be great if commuters who live in the Antelope Valley could fly above the ground traffic and land on the roof of the skyscraper where they work. But, an inevitable problem would soon be darkening the system as the sky fills up, becoming a dangerous crash course with overcrowding that drives the aeros pilots wild. Just as the freeways do now.
Neil concluded the article with these thoughts:
“When is the future? Solid states are expected to be available within a decade. And 10 years seems about right for the FAA to get its regulatory act together. Really, aeros work like a charm. It’s only paper that keeps them grounded.”