I have a rule for myself here on Petticoats and Pistols. All western all the time. I’m breaking it this week. Well, kinda.
Like every other writer probably, I’ve thought more than once about doing a time travel romance. I even wrote a proposal twenty years ago with two other authors. It was going to be a joint project–a collection of novellas–based on the premise that a magical, mysterious, legendary carousel sends the heroines and/or heroes through time to see great loves that are themselves worthy of legends. My contribution was to be, of course, a western.
Alas, no publisher at the time was interested. And then came along Jude Deveraux’s “Knight in Shining Armor,” and I put away the thought forever. Who could compete with that?
But through the years, the idea still pricked at me, mainly, I think, because I wanted to take a 19th century cowboy from, say, 1866, and set him firmly in the then 20st century. I wanted to see his awe, his wonder, his ability to cope in a world he could never contemplate in his wildest dreams.
I watched in wonder myself as we progressed from black and white TV to today’s HD interactive television, from typewriters to wireless computers, from huge radios to the tiny E-Pods, from the first telephones of the mid 1900’s to today’s “do everything” cell phones.
Since technology accelerates with every advance, I’ve wondered for the last forty years what would come next. I’m rarely disappointed.
Except for the flying car. I haven’t been able to understand why no one had developed a flying car. After all, the Jetsons managed to produce one. And who can forget Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For decades, I’ve been lusting for a helicopter bicycle or flying car.
I’ve often thought about looking upward and watching all these people fly by, rather than clogging the roads, and I wonder exactly how traffic would be controlled. There obviously are not lanes in the sky.
I was about to give up, though. I’d been waiting for decades, all to no avail.
The technology of personal flying motor vehicles seem to defy innovation.
And then, by golly, I heard a snippet on a cable news show. The fantasy of spy novels and science fiction films is at last becoming reality with several vehciles which can turn from car to aircraft.
Off to the internet to do some research, and the results are fascinating. People have been actively trying to develop a flying car since the 18th century when one would-be inventor attempted to develop a gliding horse cart. Obviously it did not succeed. There is no footnote on what happened to the horse or cart. There are nearly 80 patents on file at the United States Patent and Trademark office for various kinds of flying cars. Some have actually flown. Most have not. And all have come up short of reaching the goal of mass-produced flying cars.
Until, maybe, now.
After a century of unfulfilled promises, flying cars my fill the skies in the next few decades. There are still obstacles to overcome, including receiving approval from te FAA, but the cars are close to being produced.
Here’s several of them:
The TerrafuglaTransition is, according to the Times Online, the ultimate off-roader and is coming to an airstrip near you. The Transition is a two-seater plane that at the touch of a button converts into a road-legal car. It is scheduled to hit the showrooms by next year.
“It’s a like a little transformer,” says Carl Dietrich, the Terrafugia boss. “This is the first real integrated design where the wings fold up automatically and all the parts are in one vehicle.” It has one simple folding wing, and that means the Transition takes just 15 seconds to switch between flying and driving.
The company president promises that the plane will be quicker than cars for intercity commuting, fit into a normal garage, and even run on plain old premium unleaded. You drive to a runway and take off.
It has taken orders for 40 vehicles and plans to begin delivery in 2010.
Price tag: $194,000.
And then there’s my favorite, the Skycar, which being developed by Paul Moller. It’s a four-seat vehicle powered by eight rotary engines that are housed inside four metal housings called nacelles, on the side of the vehicle. There are two engines in each nacelle so that if one of the engines in one of the nacelles fails, the other engine can sustain flight.
The plane will be completely controlled by computers using GPS satellites, which the company calls a fly by wire system. In case of an accident, the vehicle will release a parachute and airbags, internally and externally, to cushion the impact of the crash. The big advantage to the Transition, though, is it takes off and lands vertically.
Price tag: $1,000,000 initially but it’s expected to come down to as low as $60,000 once it begins to be mass produced.
And finally there’s the SkyRiderX2R being developed by MACRO in Huntsville.
This aero car will also be able to take off and land vertically. Sky Rider incorporates the interior design of a two-seat sports car with the mobility of a helicopter or airplane. The company said it is also developing 5 and 7 seat models that should fit in most two-car garages. The navigation system here would also be controlled almost entirely by GPS satellites and cellular services. What’s even better, though, its fuel mileage is comparable to that of a medium sized car and can use gasoline, diesel, alcohol, kerosene and propane. You can always stop at a bar if you run out of gas.
No price tag here or availability found.
There are others, but these seem to be ahead of the pack. So now I know that in my lifetime – hopefully – I can look up and see all those flying vehicles I’ve been imagining for four decades. Maybe I’ll even own one.
I wonder what those cowboys would think if they were transported in time and saw flying stagecoaches that land vertically and drive down that fourteen-lane freeway.
For photos and more information on flying cars, go to: