Flying Cars

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s, The Jetsons was a popular cartoon on TV. In it, George Jetson and everyone else in the world got around with flying cars.

I remember reading an article in Popular Science at the time showing how a real-life flying car could be built. It didn't look anything like George Jetson's car, which had a spaceship-like body, bubble dome, and a little jet in the back. The Popular Science version looked like a 1965 Chevy with airplane wings and a propeller bolted to the roof.

Many science fiction stories and films make use of flying cars, including the Star Wars series. Flying cars are featured in the films Blade Runner (cccc) and The Fifth Element (1997), in which Bruce Willis drives a flying taxi cab.

The earliest SF story about a flying car is probably Jules Verne's 1904 novel Master of the World, in which the car not only converts into a flying machine but also into a boat and submarine.

Paul Moller has been working on his "Skycar" for decades. In 1989, he built a model, the M200X, that has since made 200 flights at heights up to 50 feet. It looks like a small flying saucer. Moller's latest Skycar model, the M400, can reach speeds of 400 miles an hour and has a range of about 900 miles.

The Skycar M400 is powered by eight rotary engines in which a triangular rotor spins inside an oval-shaped chamber, creating compression and expansion as the rotor turns. If you're in an accident, airbags cushion you and a parachute slows your descent.

In 1990, Kenneth Wernicke built a small winged flying car that can be both driven and flown. Top ground speed is 65 mph and air speed can reach 400 mph.