Is There a Flying Car In Your Future?
The Agony of Freeway Congestion
What driver, crawling along through bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour, hasn't dreamed of being able to turn his car into an airplane and fly over the whole mess? While we have been able build rockets to send men to the moon since 1969 (Apollo 11 first arrived on July 20, 1969) we still haven't been able to build a car that can fly out of a traffic jam.
Well, actually we have built cars that can also fly. A half a century ago the actor Bob Cummings had a car that he was flying around in and that was BEFORE Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Cummings' car and others like his needed a runway like a regular airplane in order to become airborne so, despite its ability to fly, that car was not a solution for escaping a traffic jam.
Memories of the Bob Cummings Show
What got me to thinking about flying cars, other than wishful thinking as my car crawls down the freeway to work every day, were a couple of news items recently on the Internet about some scientists and investors who feel that flying cars are both technically and economically feasible. As a child I remember occasionally watching the Bob Cummings show on TV with my parents. The show, which ran from 1955 - 1959, was about a bachelor photographer in Hollywood by the name of Bob Collins (played by Bob Cummings) who lived with his widowed sister (played by Rosemary DeCamp) and teenage nephew (played by Dwayne Hickman). Ann Davis (who later played the role of the maid in The Brady Bunch) was Schultzy, Bob's receptionist. In addition to being a photographer, Bob was a lady's man who enjoyed chasing after beautiful women but, despite his sister's best efforts, was not interested in marrying and settling down with any of them. Bob was also a pilot in the Air Force Reserve (as was Cummings in real life).
In case you are wondering how I went from flying cars to a 1950's sitcom, it is because sometime during that period I ran across an article about Cummings which not only mentioned that he was so passionate about flying that he owned, in addition to an airplane, a car that could fly. Included in the article was a picture of him driving his car, with the wings folded up, down one of Hollywood's main streets. Through the years, whenever I encountered stories about futuristic flying cars I would remember the picture of the 1950s actor who actually owned one.
Early Aviators Sought to Combine the Automobile and Airplane into One Vehicle
In case you are wondering how I went from flying cars to a 1950s sitcom, it is because sometime during that period I ran across an article about Cummings which not only mentioned that he was so passionate about flying that he owned, in addition to an airplane, a car that could fly. Included in the article was a picture of him driving his car, with the wings folded up, down one of Hollywood's main streets. Through the years, whenever I encountered stories about futuristic flying cars I would remember the picture of the 1950s actor who actually owned one.
Actually cars are only slightly older than planes with the first cars appearing in the late 19th century and the first recorded powered flight being made by the Wright Brothers on December 17, 1903. Amazingly, cars and planes were closely linked from the start. Glenn Curtiss was a successful motorcycle manufacturer who became interested in flying and went on to become a successful early airplane manufacturer with his Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. In 1917, a little more than a decade after the Wright Brothers first flight, Curtiss designed, built and flew the first flying car which he called an Autoplane. While technically successful, the Autoplane, was not a commercial success mainly due to the fact that, in trying to be two things at once, it failed to function well as either a car or an airplane. A few years later, automobile tycoon Henry Ford predicted that flying cars would be the wave of the future. His Ford Motor Company produced both cars and airplanes during the early years of the twentieth century. However, unlike Curtiss, Ford did not try to merge planes and cars into a single product.
Despite the fact that some entrepreneurs are moving full speed ahead to build a practical flying car, don't expect to see cars flying around town as depicted in old Jetson's cartoons. However, don't be surprised if your neighbor invites you over some day soon to see the new auto plane he just purchased. Not only does the technology look very promising but the economics also look promising as well. The young entrepreneurs working on flying cars fully expect to create a flying car that will not only fit in an average suburban garage but be affordable as well. Of course affordable is a relative term and the first of the flying cars will more than likely not be cheap (estimates are that the price of the first flying cars will be between that of a high end car and a small plane). But, then our growing economy is causing incomes to rise while, at the same time, technology is driving costs down in this area and it won't be too long until rising incomes meet falling prices. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is already making plans for licensing drivers and writing rules of the air that drivers will have to follow. As I pointed out in a previous hub, little did I imagine years ago when my brothers and sisters and I went in together on a Christmas gift of a second telephone for our parents for their bedroom and paid extra twice - first for the, what was then considered a slim phone, the Princess model, and, second, for a white, rather than traditional telephone black color so that it would look better in their bedroom that I would some day be taking my daughter to a store to purchase a wireless cell phone that not only included a camera but was also small enough to fit into her purse (that was smaller than the Princess telephone) and matched the purse! I won't be that surprised if one day my neighbor pulls up with a flying car to store in his garage.
However, before you start fantasizing about staying in bed an extra half hour in the morning and then backing out of your garage and avoiding the slow freeway traffic by taking off and flying to work, there are still some practical considerations as well as rules. The current plans for flying cars envision cars with an outside size that is about the same today's SUVs but passenger and cargo space more along the line of a small sports car. As to flying, no one envisions using roads as runways for these cars. Instead, plans call for using existing small airports that currently cater to private, rather than commercial, aviation. While larger airports are becoming increasingly congested with commercial aviation, these small airports have excess capacity. The result is that owners of flying cars will have to get into their car at home, fight the freeway traffic to the nearest small aircraft airport where they will take flight and fly to a similar airport at their destination where they will land and use regular roads to get to their destination. Not very practical for commuting to the average workplace or the nearest shopping mall. However, just because these flying cars aren't practical for our regular commutes today doesn't necessarily mean that they will just be toys for those who can afford them. Today, it takes as long or longer to fly from Tucson, Arizona to Phoenix, Arizona even though it only takes an airplane 20 minutes to make the flight while the drive takes an hour and a half to two hours to drive. Imagine how much time could be saved by driving to a nearby small airport, pushing a button to convert to flight mode, flying to Phoenix, landing, converting back to car mode and continuing to the destination. Just as the introduction of the automobile made it faster and easier to get around, as well as freeing us from having to live near our jobs, flying cars offer the possibility of even greater freedom of choice.
More by this Author
The Pilgrims were not the first to celebrate Thanksgiving in America and this holiday's traditions have continued to evolve since the Pilgrims.
The National Guard offers men and women the opportunity to train and help defend their country while also having and home and civilian job. For some, the Air National Guard offers the opportunity to fly military...
With so many Americans traveling and working abroad to say nothing of meeting people via the Internet, it is not surprising that many are finding love and marrying someone from abroad. Here is how to legally bring your...