Drivers or Pilots

Pilots or Drivers?

Countless times, my father said: “Son, one day, cars are gonna fly”. This has been reiterated, in one form or the other, over the years. For decades, we have seen renderings, heard speculation and even sneered at intrepid inventors who tried their hand at this mystery. George Jetson was as close as we would come to mainstream America flying to work every day. You would think that by now, we would have embraced the art of flying technology with the same vigor that everyone is showing to hybrid technology. There is reason to believe that more than scientific deficit or bean-counter interference keeps us on the ground. There are questions to be answered.

Do you know that rubber is a billion dollar industry with tire manufacturing going through as many as 30 different companies worldwide? What are they going to do with all these tires on the ground while we are zipping past skyscrapers?

Wouldn’t the environmentalists have a thing or two to say? As if we haven’t polluted the air enough with our V-8’s, 10’s, 12’s and 16’s all a-belching. “Now you wanna inject the air with toxic fumes directly?” The only possible advantage: there wouldn’t be any trees left for them to chain themselves to. There too, goes the steel industry. While you can surely get a metal 767 off the ground, the engines have to be enormous. There are fuel concerns that call for lighter materials, but passenger cars that fly would cut out steel altogether as an option for personal transit. Would we now do crash tests for airplanes or for cars? Speaking of the differences, planes engines are certified by hours between overhauls (TBO); cars, by miles between tune-ups. Which system would we use? Throw away your expensive chronographs and built-in stopwatches. We can’t use Miles-per-Hour in the sky.

America has never been one for understatement. We do things big. Small technologies, like the type that will be needed are best left to the masters — the Japanese. Not that Bowling Green couldn’t do it; it’s just that Sony, Hitachi and Kawasaki have beat us to the tiny-tech punch. The Germans have proved to be a rigid and meticulous bunch. Their work in lightweight metals (Audi A8) would move the industry far faster than a fiberglass Corvette ZR-71 Blackbird. Air-conditioners, heated seats and navigation systems are heavy. In order to accommodate the luxuries we have grown accustomed to, big engines or a drastic re-think of propulsion is needed.

This country, and many others, will need infrastructure. On-ramps, Off-ramps? Merging? Where will you hang traffic lights? What is the speed limit in the sky? Before I leave you, let me mention that there are hundreds of other industries centered around your Chevy Impala staying on the ground: Concrete, Asphalt, Motorsports, Law Enforcement and the list goes on. Finally, who hasn’t had trouble with their car stalling or sputtering? It’s enough that reliable service is expensive, what are you going to do when the alley-mechanic crossed the wrong wires and now your car, with wife and kids in tow, is not on the side of a lonely road, but falling from the sky?

I am sure that my father, with his Flash Gordon fantasies, was only giving me hope for the future. However, I don’t think that he explored the things that would be affected when his cronies dreamed of flying out of the garage. To their credit, the Amphicar was a successful foray into cars for land and sea. However, land-to-air transport is a more adventurous undertaking. Fantasies aside, we have made great strides in safety, speed and economy that Dad couldn’t have imagined and those from his generation are thrilled. So…..Pops, keep the world spinning, keep the country going and please, keep the cars on the ground.


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