It is highly likely that urban transport will soon climb up not the second and third floors, but the tenth floor at once. In other words, it may soon appear right in the sky. Air cars, air motorcycles and rocket haversacks from Hollywood may soon come to our everyday life. Are we ready for it? Last year engineers from American corporation Millenium Jet tested their SoloTrek, a one-seat screw-propeller with two screws, a so-called “squared Carlson”.
A pilot stands on special footboards, fastens himself to the apparatus and takes off. Flights can be controlled with special manual steers and with pilot’s own weight. There is only one slight problem: the apparatus flew up just for 1.5 meters. Skeptical persons in the American corporation think that the apparatus is just another toy; enthusiasts, on the contrary, predict promising future to the innovation: for the beginning the apparatus can be used by rescue services, police and army, and later – by urban transport.
While Americans are still hesitating, it can be hardly believed but Russians have already adopted a more advanced thing. We mean Russia’s first individual helicopter Yula (Whirligig) and its modification Night Butterfly. The helicopters undergone production tests last year. Author of the innovations, Vyacheslav Kotelnikov from the Russian city of Omsk managed to place small jet engines into two propeller blades above the pilot seat and overcame centrifugal force rather wittily borrowing the method from Leonardo da Vinci.
A great part of the helicopter’s construction, including its picture, is a military secret. However, judging from descriptions given by eyewitnesses, it is a chair with a propeller above the pilot’s head and with pylons for rockets. So, pilots can fly and fire like James Bond.
Yula (Whirligig) is planned to be used in military operations in the Caucasus which by the way is rather questionable: Caucasus is not a Hollywood shooting area, and the new flying apparatus can be knocked down even with a pistol shot. But the new model is more than promising for rescue teams.
So-called flying cars are another candidate for air transport of the future. The idea of such transport was in the air after WWII, it was strikingly realized in movies about Fantomas and Agent 007. But flights of their fantastic cars were just a movie trick. However, the incredible flying apparatuses inspired millions of enthusiasts who tried to combine habitual cars and a plane in order to construct “flying cars” similar to that one in which James Bond was flying in movies.
American Paul Moller is the most successful among all claimants to the title of a flying car creator. In 1965 he built his first “flying car” that could slightly rise above the surface. Within decades Moller carried out experiments with several small screws resembling helicopter ones but concealed inside the body, and finally the investigator created the last variant of his development, a four-seated SkyCar. This year Paul promises to soar up in the skies in the flying car; later, he says, all drivers will be able to drive such cars.
The magic carper from Arab tales was another inspiration for dreamer designers. This example didn’t discourage David Metreveli, an Israeli of Russian origin. The man used to work on Soviet life-saving systems in the network of the Energy-Buran program. Within several past years in Israel he has been developing modifications of flying square platforms of different capacities with helicopter screws in the corners. In principle, Metreveli’s platform Eagle can fly right up to a wall of a building without any risk of breaking the screws; at that, the new apparatus can take people who get into troubles right from windows or take passengers on its board. The only problem of Eagle is that it is flying only about the Internet websites.
However, there were people who took up the problem of individual air transport fundamentally. Superman Buck Rogers from American comics in the 1920-1940s was flying about in his jet haversack, which certainly attracted lots of admirers of the hero.
In the movie The Thunderball (1965) James Bond swishes the skies in a jet haversack. But there are just few people who know that the flight of the movie star was not a trick at all. Bond’s dubbing actor Bill Suitor performed flights in a real haversack created by Wandell Moore from Bell Airspace in 1958. The wonder haversack (it was called the rocket bell) was kind of national advertising of the USA all over the world within decades. It was demonstrated at international exhibitions and trade fairs. A bit later than in the USA a similar advertising rocket bell appeared in the USSR. Unfortunately, even now jet haversacks are awfully noisy, they are unstable in the air and have a bulky protection from burning hot gases on a pilot’s back. And what is more important, the apparatus can fly without topping-up just for few seconds.
After September 11, 2001 designers of different flying mini devices started advertising of their creations more actively. They say that such apparatuses could help rescue people from burning skyscrapers. Restless “auto pilot” Moller got lots of private orders for his SkyCar that hasn’t been even yet tested. The US Federal Aviation Administration seriously considers the possibility of providing safe air corridors for owners of flying cars. Let’s assume that technical problems will be successfully settled. What is to come next? The same way we have traffic accidents on the surface, we will also have accidents in the air, and victims of such accidents will fall down on us right from the sky.
Definitely, before people start turning into Carlson, Buck Rogers and Batman, we should consider security measures thousand times. On the other hand, even steam locomotives, cars and planes were treated extremely dangerous for people when they appeared for the first time.
Leonid Popov, Alphabeth