Driving the friendly skies
Sept. 20, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

I never was much of a fan of George Jetson, but I must admit I did covet his space car.

The idea of having a flying vehicle that could take one anywhere one wanted to go, and then fold up to a package the size of a briefcase, has always seemed pretty cool to me.

Fictional space age travelers like George Jetson were not confined to roads. They were able to go wherever they liked, traveling as the crow (or car) flies.

Like many of the things that were nothing but science fiction when I was a lad, flying cars may be much closer to reality today.

A recent article in Computerworld announced that a Massachusetts company hopes to start delivering its version of a flying car to customers by late 2011.

Terrafugia, founded about five years ago by MIT graduates, got a break when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a special weight limit exemption to the company for its flying car – or “roadable aircraft” – which is called the Transition.

With that FAA clearance, the company said it is on track to deliver the first Transitions to customers late next year, according to the Computerworld story.

The Transition, which is designed with foldable wings, successfully completed its first flight March 5, 2009, after six months of road testing.

The two-seat vehicle falls into the light sport aircraft category, and is expected to be priced at about $148,000. That sounds like a bargain for a flying car, especially since it would give one practically unlimited freedom.

It would be great for dating or sharing adventures with that special someone. Imagine all the remote and romantic locations that would be accessible by air.

All sorts of advantages might accrue to the owner-operator of a flying car.

It would also give one the benefits of flying without the bother of standing in those annoying security lines.

This could also be the solution to traffic congestion and the spiralling cost of maintaining our roads.

People will need a sport pilot certificate to fly the Transition, which is designed to take off and land at small, local airports, and to drive on any road.

The vehicle runs on unleaded gasoline, and can travel up to 450 miles on a tank of gas. It can fly at speeds up to 115 mph. It’s also designed to fit into a typical household garage.

No doubt, it would increase one’s standing in the neighborhood to be the first person on the block to have an aircraft parked in one’s garage.

It is rather exciting to think of the possibilities this, and other flying cars that are being developed, might offer.

There is one thing that worries me, though.

When I think of all the knuckleheads out there who can’t seem to drive a regular car on good old traditional roads without running amok, it scares the bejeezus out of me to think of these same knuckleheads taking to the skies.

There is enough stress in the world without having to worry about some imbecile in a flying car coming at one out of the heavens.

We know about the problems that are caused by texting while driving. Imagine the mayhem that could result from early-adopting baboons texting while flying. Yikes.

And, it could really put a damper on our enjoyment of outdoor activities if the new sky pilots start crashing into one another overhead, and we need to start worrying about debris and blockheads falling out of the sky and raining down upon us.

I might even have to trade my fedora for a pith helmet to protect my melon if debris from flying cars starts to be a problem.

In addition to that, airborne litter could also become a concern.

Judging by the state of our roads and ditches, there are a lot of clowns who believe that the highways are their personal garbage cans, and they think nothing of tossing trash out their car windows, rather than depositing it in an appropriate receptacle.

If these same chimps get behind the wheels of flying cars, we would never know when the next fast-food bag, beverage container, or even more offensive debris might come at us out of the sky.

Fortunately, we are probably safe, at least for the short-term.

It will probably be some time before the new flying cars are accessible to the average citizen. For now, the six-figure price tag will probably limit the market to professional athletes, gangsters, members of congress, and other grossly overpaid individuals.

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