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The Coming Air Age

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the RSN dept.

Technology 319

Lovejoy writes "Sixty years ago in The Atlantic Monthly, Igor Sikorsky wrote The Coming Air Age. "Any of us who are alive ten years after this Second World War is won will see and use hundreds of short-run helicopter bus services." He goes on to write about personal helicopters which fit in large garages and that helicopters that are easier to drive than cars, etc.. So, will personal flight ever be viable? Do wildly wrong predictions like this give futurists pause? I think they should."

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319 comments

Who needs helicopters... (5, Funny)

Jouster (144775) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434845)

... when we can have rocket belts [slashdot.org] ?

Jouster

Re:Who needs helicopters... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435117)

Live Internet Radio Show [nhbradio.com] Raw, funny stuff.

Flash FXP2.X is a Trojan,DeWeese a Phed. WATCH OUT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4434853)

WARNING FLASH FXP 2.0.900 IS A TROJAN
And all previous build before and most likely all to come. I implore every use of this software to be weary and on guard! I would have a good firewall with a drop all, allow exception rule set, ethereal, windump/[tcpdump on *nix], and a pcap lib, or use sniffer, and get ready to watch this thing with hawk eyes. Given the author's tradition of reporting usage, selling information to marketing companies, and revoking registrations without cause, we must be prepared for his latest Trojan horse. The program is delightful, irresistible, for it is feature laden, stable. But its target is warez users, and I strongly feel this warez-centric program serves to report to the government the biggest abuses. Remember, that the information he claims is benign is encrypted, so you will never see the payload of this machinations and undesired packets. He also uses port 80 to send information out on, so please be using an application firewall such as Kerio. I would not trust Charles unless he releases source code. We are already help hostage by a closed source MSCVRT, and other runtime libraries, any of which could perform undocumented tasks with encrypted packets, you might see packets but the nature of the payload is occluded. I strongly recommend that nobody trusts outgoing packets they cannot decrypt. Anyways, for the technically savvy, one should peruse through the packets this thing produces, and ask yourself, do you really trust some man who will not end these perpetual and consistent accusations by revealing some of the source code to allay the growing fears he is part of a dragnet cabal to capture people determined to be felon software pirates. He is a party to your own demise, the "Robin Hood" loopholes are closed, and Charles could make money off you and put you in jail. He makes money off of FlashFXP, he targets the warez community, the program sends packets that are extraneous to file transfers that are encrypted, he has revoked registrations without cause, he sells your information to marketers I have confirmed this through SpamCop, and he is in cahoots with federal authorities to help Trojan and compromise your computer.

FlashFXP is the root of all evil. Not only does this closed source call-home program get huge amounts of attention making all of us wonder if "Charles DeWeese the information thief" is 1) selling your information to marketeers, 2) pretending he can increase profits by threatening, as reported in some cases, paying customers with BSA actions and lawsuits or 3) trojaning your system for other nefarious activities the nature of which you will never be aware because he provides neither source or debugging symbols, and the binary is stripped. One thing is for sure. Be it here on BetaNews, or on Slashdot, or on download.com.com, there is more than a few people calling into question why FlashFXP does what it does, and what is it doing. I would recommend the use of WinPCAP, WinDUMP, and ethereal, along with the free for personal use application firewall, Kerio Personal Firewall (software with nothing to hide, such as KPF, is often free for personal use, and others, like FreeBSD, OpenBSD, OpenSSL (a technology probably stolen by DeWeese and used illegally in FFXP) and Linux/GNU to name a few. With scary legislation in the US empowering copyright holders to DDOS your P2P networks, "root" your boxes in order to delete copyrighted content, and to make circumventing the mechanism by which an MP3 prevents the playing of an MP3 without a digital signature a felony, you can not trust software which calls home in an undocumented, undesirable way. This is the inroad by which these technology fascists will infect your computer with government sanctioned Trojaning devices. FlashFXP, when purchased legitimately, forces your to divulge HUGE amounts of information about yourself. You cant use cash and anonymously buy "shrink." Not only did I buy FFXP, but I excercised my right to fair use on more than one machine, the closed source binary was never run concurrently on more than one CPU at a time, yet my key got blacklisted. I have always been fond of OpenSource, but this and the EULAs for Windows Media Player, which also does various call home undocumented behavior, make not using OpenSource suicidal if you want a life where the government doesn't control and monitor your every keypress. Best of luck in the brave new world, if we continue to support fascists such as Charles DeWeese in his never-ending pursuit to force you to be tithed for non-Novel software which is built upon the stolen intellectual property of others, and prioritized. This is by no means a call for legislated digital communism, but it certainly calls into question the value of something that is not transferable, the seller has not liability of the actions of, the right to fair use is forfeit, and they law claims they copyright holder can root your computer in order to enforce copyright. Software like this I should be paid to use! Not pay for it! Be careful. He has stolen from the public domain technology to implement this secure technology, SSL, then he uses it to hide from you the true nature of his communications with home-base, as he calls home and Jon.Ashkrofts your information. I'm glad I use SmartFTP and NCFTP and run KPF as a start in the line of defense against a Orwellian cabal of software and I.P.

For all the would-be suckers out there, and that is what you would be for soliciting this guy, most of the complaints I have seen here are from older people, clearly, mature (not script kiddie types) that have had their honest to God license revoked without refund. Please be careful. If this man offered a shrink wrap product, there would be no problem - but he does not. He needs more control over you than that. I think he sends marketing data back personally. "If you choose to register FlashFXP, some personal information is required to complete the purchase. Things like your name/company, address, and billing information like your credit card number is collected. " Now with a rash of hackers stealing credit card numbers, and Charles storing all sorts or private information on you, you become VULNERABLE. In his EULA: "The license will terminate automatically and the software unregistered if you fail to comply with any of the above terms and conditions. The license may be terminated by either party at any time and without notice." He can TERMINATE the license for any reason. He could say, you have to stop using this, because you are a good paying customer and I don't care. He has done this. Listen to the huge community of Charles victims before you send him money.

This program started out very good, ambitious. A refreshing rival to Cute, with better reliability and FXP capability. Of late, particularly after the 1.2 builds, this program has started to numerous things I am highly suspect of. This program has corrupted files on transfer, and has called home on me, apparently to "verify registration, check for update." I am confused as to why a paying customer is subjected to cross examination, to me this is a form of abuse. I recently tried a RC3 build, and was surprised that more things are broken than ever before, and reverted back 1.4. I am saddened that I have paid to buy into a crumbling, failing legacy which is bloating up, working less and failing its original design goals so drastically, all the while subjecting paying customers to offensive call home checks.

Not yet ... (3, Funny)

nbvb (32836) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434856)

Personal flight won't be a reality until we figure out how to put skip-lines and double-yellows in mid-air to keep people in line :-)

--NBVB

Re:Not yet ... (1)

doc_side (557114) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434879)

... not to mention getting rid of that idea of flying between the buildings. ( think fifth element...et al)

Re:Not yet ... (3, Informative)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434976)

Until it's cheap. I want my Silver Surfer fantasy damn it now just hurry up and make it happen.

It won't happen with current tech, too expensive and liable to fail. We need something like anti gravity, ducks the punches thrown by physicists, or something similar that provides oodles of lift for a few cents.

Having surfed, skateboarded, snow boarded I'm all set to flyboard.

seriously... (4, Insightful)

keithmoore (106078) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435273)

air traffic control is probably the biggest problem.
the ATC system is already overtaxed in busy areas and part of how they cope is by discouraging general aviation. it's certainly technically feasible for personal aircraft to be reliable, affordable, and about as easy to fly as it is to drive a car IF you can get enough people to use them. but if you get enough people to use them you have a traffic management problem far worse than anything we've ever seen on the ground.

face it, one reason we want to travel by air is to avoid traffic jams - but as soon as we put everyone in the air we need to find ways to keep everyone from hitting each other, and to do that we end up imposing the same kinds of constraints we have on the ground. at least on the ground we can often survive collisions between vehicles.

Keith

Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (5, Insightful)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434862)

It didn't happen because Igor Sikorsky couldn't make helicopters the way Henry Ford made Model Ts. The problem is that when a Model T breaks you get out and walk; when your helicopter breaks, you die.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (4, Informative)

littlerubberfeet (453565) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434898)

NO, the helocopter dies, and you autorotate down to the ground. At any decent helo flight school, they will force at least 3 practice autorotations, where they actually shut off the engine. They are no more dangerous then having an engine shut off in a Porsche at 140 mph. It just takes a little more training, which wouldn't be a bad thing for most car drivers.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (4, Informative)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434947)

That's assuming you have a place to land, the rotors are still in one piece, the rotors are free to auto rotate, the other control surfaces are still functioning. There is plenty of footage of autorotation accidents.

Having an engine shut off at speed in a corner is vicious, suddenly no drive going to braking. When your car is balanced at speed any change in force is a big problem.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435186)

There are no other control surfaces on a helicopter once you lose engine power.

What will happen: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435270)

Any of us who live to see the end of this emminent third world war will soon be running Linux on our desktops and laughing at the newly formed LoveBSD operating system that resulted after all of the BSD factions reconciled their differences realizing that war is bad.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (3, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434949)

Hell, you can even program a computer to do it for you automagically.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4434969)

I'll keep that in mind when I'm hit by some jackass talking on the cell phone, applying makeup/shaving, or trying to do work on a laptop computer. Well, I suppose it'll be some time until the air gets as crowded as the highways.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (1)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435035)

Yeah, but most drivers are idiots.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (1)

triumphDriver (600794) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435038)

Take just about any car, get it going as fast as it will go. Most cars will do at least 100 mph. Lift your right foot quickly off the accelerator. See what happens. BTW take some extra underwear it will be very interesting for a few seconds.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll two words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435203)

two words concerning autorotation

tail rotor

An experiment... (5, Interesting)

Scratch-O-Matic (245992) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435262)

1. Take the idiot who cut you off this morning with no turn signal and no glance in the mirror while pulling curlers out of her hair and talking on her cell phone.

2. Drag her from her car like you wanted to anyway.

3. Put her in a helicopter with a failed engine and see how well she does autorotating.

As I pilot, I think that personal flight will occur someday, but only after these two prerequisites are achieved:

1. Antigravity, or some propulsion system that is so simple and efficient that falling out of the sky is not going to happen no matter how inattentive the pilot, and
2. An automatic navigation system that will keep all the vehicles in well-defined "lanes" just as they are now.

Needless to say, I think we have a ways to go yet.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (3, Informative)

frisket (149522) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434919)

It didn't happen because helicopters have all the aerodynamic qualities of a brick. When the power goes in a plane, you can glide for miles and with luck land in a field or on a beach. When the power goes in a helicopter you just drop, vertically.

Predictions like this were made during and after WW1 as well, for the private use of planes. For a time in the 20s and early 30s, it seemed as if it might be true: small biplanes like the Moth were cheap and easy to fly, and could be stored in the garage and assembled for a trip.

But I don't know why it never took off...maybe the intervention of WW2, cheaper cars, better roads...

This is bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4434932)

See the prior post in thread about autorotating.

Learn a little about helos before ranting about how they work.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (5, Informative)

shadowj (534439) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434943)

When the power goes in a helicopter you just drop, vertically.

Not quite true. When the power goes in a helicopter, there's a lot of angular momentum stored in the rotor, and aerodynamic effects allow you to spin the rotor even faster by angling the blades appropriately as you, er, plummet.

As you approach the ground (probably a lot faster than you'd like), you angle the blades to bite into the air, trading lift for angular momentum. If you do this correctly, you may be able to save your butt.

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (3, Informative)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435129)

According to the NTSB database [ntsb.gov] , there have been about 5100 heli incidents/accidents since 1/1/1980. 879 had at least one fatality.

So, it's not too bad, but compared to the number of general aircraft fatal/nonfatal incident ratio, it's higher.

Of course, that could be due to the higher incident of runway incursions and planes taxiing into other planes causing minor damage, which is included in these numbers. Those kinds of things don't often happen to helicopters, since, well, they don't taxi. :)

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (3, Interesting)

Doogman (30146) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435193)

Ok, you have a choice: a dead stick landing with a Cessna 172 or a helicopter at equal altitude. Which would you choose?

I would choose the Cessna 100% of the time. Sure, you can autorotate a heli down, but if you don't have _plenty_ of airspeed/altitude when you do it, good luck and things happen fast. At least with a regular plane, you actually have a few minutes to ponder where to land.

Not to mention if the rotor "departs the aircraft." A prop you can live without, but not a rotor.

A pilot told me once, "Practicing a autorotation is alot like practicing dying."

Re:Easy prediction: It'll Never Happen. (1)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435282)

Not quite true. When the power goes in a helicopter, there's a lot of angular momentum stored in the rotor, and aerodynamic effects allow you to spin the rotor even faster by angling the blades appropriately as you, er, plummet.

As you approach the ground (probably a lot faster than you'd like), you angle the blades to bite into the air, trading lift for angular momentum. If you do this correctly, you may be able to save your butt.


I don't know much about helicopters, but doesn't this assume that it's only the engine that failed, and not the control mechanisms? If a car loses control, you may hit something, or you may not. If a chopper loses control, isn't that going to turn out very badly in most cases?

Safety (2, Informative)

Inominate (412637) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435178)

One reason aircraft will never be as common as cars, is the maintainance involved. Aircraft must be constantly maintained, whereas cars can be ignored. The other is ease, a bad driver will cause accidents or close calls, a bad pilot can kill many people.

The truth about modern flight is, it's so safe that the only thing that will bring any plane down unsafely is a bad pilot or a catastrophic failure. This is why people don't survive airline crashes. An airliner doesn't crash unless it explodes, or has a major structural failure.

The hardware isnt much of an issue, but cost and training required is.

Re:Safety (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435266)

I don't think it is the danger as much as the insurance and lawsuits that would go with the danger. Cars don't crash into houses and malls very often. There are probably roughly 10 serious accidents every day in a medium-sized city. If these were helicopters then houses would be munched daily.

And now with the Osama thing it is out of the question.

Plus, cars and public transportion are still far cheaper and less poluting.

Wearable airplanes, anyone? (-1, Redundant)

otuz (85014) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434872)

Wouldn't it be nicer to wear personal fly-suits with telescope wings and fuel-cell powered textile propellers? :)

Pff (-1, Redundant)

taernim (557097) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434875)

What do you mean futurists are wrong? ::zooms off in his flying car::

And what did Sikorsky do for a living? (5, Insightful)

Stinking Pig (45860) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434876)

When a man who makes helicopters tells you everyone needs a helicopter, doesn't it sound a lot like a man who makes computers telling you that everyone needs a computer?

Or an Internet connection for that matter...

Re:And what did Sikorsky do for a living? (2)

aiken_d (127097) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435116)

Fair enough, but you probably don't question it when a farmer says everyone needs food.

The trick is determining whether the guy is telling everyone they need something because he's in the industry, or whether he's in the industry because everyone needs it. Of course, we can only make that distinction in hindsight.

Still, I think you're dead on about Sikorsky. Everyone needs a helicopter? Apparently he didn't pay much attention to the way people drive in two dimensions.

Cheers
-b

Re:And what did Sikorsky do for a living? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435231)

I am still awaiting the XML Helicopter. I keep reading great things about it, but have yet to see one.

To quote Avery Brooks: (1)

antis0c (133550) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434880)

Where are all the flying cars?? I was promised Flying Cars!

I don't trust any future predictions. You think the US government will allow personal helicopers anytime soon after what happened 9/11? I think not. We're going to be dependent on ground transportation until theres no more ground to travel on.

Re:To quote Avery Brooks: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435122)

Do you think that every helicopter is owned by the government? I got my pilot license after 9/11, and if I had more money I would have my own plane. No one will ever use planes or helicopters to replace cars, it takes too much training and they are not cheap. Plus, people are idiots and can barely drive, I rather keep them on the ground than in the air.

Ground is better (5, Insightful)

Talennor (612270) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434881)

The problem is that ground is better. Cars go quite fast enough, and while traffic is really bad the fact remains that after a small collision nobody falls to their deaths. And can you imagine the noise pollution from the rotors? Think of one of those things taking off from your neighbor's driveway! Cars are fine for me, where I don't have to worry about watching for other vehicles in 3D, hey it's hard enough when you don't have cars coming up from underneath you cutting you off! We're still on the ground all the time because it's just a better place to be.

Re:Ground is better (5, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435015)

Quote: Cars go quite fast enough, and while traffic is really bad the fact remains that after a small collision nobody falls to their deaths.

I don't know about you, but there have been many times where I've gone someplace by car spending over two hours on the road, knowing that a two-man ultralight or autogyro could have gotten me there in about 30 minutes. An ultralight aircraft (basically a glider with a lawnmower engine on it) with a 350 pound capacity will hold me, my equipment, and a small foldable bicycle to take me the rest of the way from wherever I land. (All you need is a hundred feet or so of open grass or roadway, too. Public parks and parking lots make a suitable landing strip).

After landing, the craft folds up and can be "driven" over land using the propeller, making it easy to stash it in a regular parking spot or garage.

Granted, it's not something I'd use on my regular commute, but something like that could come in handy, and I'm not the only person who could find a use for it.

So the issue of use is not a problem, it's safety. Most people can't even drive as it is. But ultralights are actually safer than cars because of mass and speed issues. Low altitude power-deployed parachutes allow for safe landings even in a major collision. If you lose power, you glide back down (quickly, but controllably). All you need is proper training and licensing programs to (hopefully) keep the really incapable people out of the skys.

As for mass-transit air, that's actually pretty popular, if a little expensive and awkward due to scheduling. But if you're going from New York City to D.C. in a hurry, you either take a shuttle turboprop out of LaGuardia.

Besides, once private aircraft become even remotely popular, the roads will probably clear up a bit. Things balance out. Don't write it off so quickly.
=Smidge=

Re:Ground is better (2, Insightful)

efatapo (567889) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435115)

Yeah, and I'm sure plenty of people said...

Horses work fine. Sure, the crap smells bad but can you imagine your neighbor pulling one of those loud things out of his house. Horses are fine for me where I don't have to worry about other cars coming at me at 70mph.

Just like when I heard everyone saying word processors/type writers are fine. Or, dial-up modems are fine who needs cable.

You only say this because cars are the social norm and to society Helicoptor/air travel is a fantasy. In 20 years your tune might change.

Air? Bah! (0, Offtopic)

dasunt (249686) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434884)

What I'm waiting for is the ability to regrow teeth!

Is that snickering that I hear? Before you burst out into laughter, I ask you - exactly how much cola do you drink in a day? Don't think that the 'diet' stuff is helping you much, the acidity still harms your teeth.

I've been keeping a close eye on the field, and due to such factors as our advances we are making in biology, the relative simplicity of the tooth structure, and our aging population, I believe we could have real-tooth replacement in 20 years.

Must... keep... off... of... Mt... Dew... til... then...

Teath regrowth (1)

jez_f (605776) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434957)

Regrowing teath isallready on the cards [newscientist.com]

There is a lovely scene in the Directors cut of Almost Famous [imdb.com] (set in the 70s) at a graduation cerimony. The principal says (something like) "By the year 2000 we will be flying to work and will have a computer in every home." Both seemed equaly (un)feasable at the time.

Predicting the future is dodgy bussiniess, something will allways supprise you. The popularity of SMS on mobile phones supprised lots of analists. As did the complete non interest in WAP.

Humans can't handle 2D, much less 3 (1, Redundant)

g8orade (22512) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434887)

Human beings have enough trouble handling left and right, much less up and down too. It'll never happen. However, Bill Joy's future outlined in Why the Future Doesn't Need Us holds quite a bit more water.

TNT... (0)

edrugtrader (442064) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434896)

i did watch back to the future 2 last night, and i got to say i would rather have the sports history book than the flying cars. biff... argh.

Re:TNT... (1)

Bahamuto (227466) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435261)

Wells that's only cause with the sports book you could BUY a flying car, or pay someone to invent you one with that kind of money.

Futurists (5, Insightful)

Altima(BoB) (602987) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434899)

1930s Popular Science issues are always pretty amusing. I think they know that (The do that flashback thing after every issue, after all) and these days they stick to more grounded articles, usually just reporting things that have already been invented but on the cutting edge anyway.

Prediction is not only a tricky business, it's a double edged sword. This generation is probably the most aware of how wrong predictions have been, because of the speed of a computer revolution and the (relative) slow pace of the rest of physics and chemistry. We're all aware that even the greatest works from the past look silly now (Think of 2001: A Space Odyssey)

But as a side effect, perhaps our generation will limit its predictions to stuff like Moore's Law. That would be tragic.

What's a society without dreams, anyway? I'd hate to see the world go stagnant for fear that any dreams expressed will sound silly in 20 years.

Futurists vs. Obstructionists (5, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434954)

> This generation is probably the most aware of how
> wrong predictions have been, because of the speed
> of a computer revolution and the (relative) slow
> pace of the rest of physics and chemistry.

I'm afraid I'd have to disagree. Many of these predictions COULD have come true, if it weren't for the incredible growth of regulations and other legal obstructions. Autogyros are very simple devices which require only a bit of practice to run, and would be pretty darn cheap if mass-produced. So why aren't they common? Because you need quite a bit in the way of licensing to be allowed to operate one.

Re:Futurists (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434975)

We're all aware that even the greatest works from the past look silly now (Think of 2001: A Space Odyssey)
I'll bite. What's so silly-looking about 2001: A Space Odyssey? Other than the time frame, I mean.

Re:Futurists (1)

Altima(BoB) (602987) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435149)

Okay, I admit it, the time frame is the main factor there. 2001 is a masterpiece and they get so many things right that so many movies don't (the soundlessness of space and so on)

But, (and I'm gonna try to find the article I found regarding this, may have been slashdot...) something like HAL 9000 is unlikely to be seen in any of our lifetimes. Something about how the focus of computer development has been in logic and not a whole lot of effort is being put into emotive stuff, like holding a conversation (Not saying no effort, just very little compared to the rest)

Also, people would probably complain, if it were made by Microsoft, that it would only use MS buzzwords or something. (/lame attempt at humor)

I would offer up more than this feeble arguement but it's 2:09am now in Ireland so I'll have to pick this up again tomorrow.

Re:Futurists (1)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435000)

In order for a futurist's predictions to be completely useless, some of them must be true.
Tor

Re:Futurists (3, Interesting)

bhsx (458600) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435080)

Well, Moller [moller.com] has an interesting approach. Remove those axis decisions from the driver/pilot. Make a computer-based flight system that holds the "skycar" perfectly still. No yaw. Then you simply have up and down, left and right, and forward and back. Not too much more to learn. Add in 8-way redundant rotary engines, a GPS, and about 5 years of REAL testing and I think we may see a winner here. All of us, if they ever hit that "cheap as an Escort" goal of theirs.

Popular Science (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435171)

See, the problem isn't with the projects, it's Popular Science.

Everyone knows that as soon as a project is published in Popular Science, it's doomed.

Popular Science continues to write articles on the most fabulous of technology, and most of them die a quiet death.

So, the problem wasn't Sikorsky or Helicopters or anything else. The problem was Popular Science. Keep your invention out of Popular Science, and you have a better chance of succes.

Re:Futurists (4, Insightful)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435204)

But as a side effect, perhaps our generation will limit its predictions to stuff like Moore's Law. That would be tragic.

Glancing at the recent science fiction on my bookshelf, I say, not fucking likely.

"Hard" science fiction plays the role that those articles in Popular science once did. This is unsurprising - stories are generally more fun to read than articles, and as a society we've matured to the point that the human impact of technology (which is best explored through literature) is of more interest to people than the gadgets themselves (present company excluded ;)

Personal helicopters, personal vectored thrust aircraft and flying cars do not, at the moment, seem to be the direction the future is heading, so no one predicts them. This is not surprising - no more surprising than, in recent times, futurists stopped predicting air on the moon!

The book I happen to be reading at the moment, The Octagonal Raven by L.E. Modesitt, has personal ultralight aircraft in it. It also has nanotechnology and some kind of cyberware. It's pretty recent (it's also not very good, btw.) At this juncture, all of this seems like a pretty likely future (it also has implied FTL, which doesn't); in a century, I'm sure it will appear as quant and dated as an old star trek.

1D10T Problem (0, Flamebait)

jmorse (90107) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434903)

Given how poorly people operate automobiles in the US, I'm not sure I want people operating aircraft. The higher speeds, axes of control in 3 dimensions instead of 2, and basic physics are beyond the comprehension (much less the mastery) of the profligate masses. I don't think you can dumb down the basic controls of an aircraft enough to make it safe for, say, Archie Bunker to operate.



Of course, they did let George W. Bush operate an F-102 while he shirked duty in Vietnam, and if he can do it...

Re:1D10T Problem (1, Offtopic)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434959)

The question is did he do it considering he went AWOL?

Re:1D10T Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4434990)

yeah and clinton dodged the draft whats ur point

Re:1D10T Problem (1, Flamebait)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435028)

Of course, they did let George W. Bush operate an F-102 while he shirked duty in Vietnam, and if he can do it...

At least he was in the Air National Guard. You, OTOH, shirk it completely.

Moller... (2)

bhsx (458600) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435101)

[slashdot.org]

this was in reply to you
somehow it didn't make it there.
But check www.moller.com

Re:1D10T Problem (3, Insightful)

benny_lama (516646) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435109)

Do you think the same idiots aren't also operating aircraft? Yes, it is significantly more difficult to get a pilot license than a driver license, but that doesn't stop the idiots from getting one. Go check out out the NTSB's accident reports [ntsb.gov] . There is a rather large percentage of accidents where people have killed themselves and their passengers by running out of fuel in flight.

Too hard (5, Insightful)

shadowj (534439) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434912)

It didn't happen because helicopters are just too damned hard to fly. It takes great skill to hover the things, despite what you see in the movies and TV.

A little computer assistance goes a long way, though... add a few solid-state gyros and some jazzy control circuitry, and everything becomes much easier. See this [rctoys.com] link to a computer-stabilized RC model helicopter, for example (yes, I know it was previously covered on /.).

Whether or not we can make a similar, human-occupied system sufficiently reliable to prevent newbies from plummeting out of the sky is an open question.

Re:Too hard (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435160)

Computer flown airplanes will have the same problem that computer driven cars will. Its perfectly fine for people to kill 50,000 other people on the highways every year (in the US), and that is just fine, but as soon as a computer kills the first person the company that built it will get sued right out of existence.

Screw personal helicopters... (0)

PixellationStation (537257) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434914)

I'm holding out for personal teleportation devices!

Futurists (3, Interesting)

entrippy (14141) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434918)

When a futurist makes an incorrect guess as to what the future holds, it doesn't invalidate the whole system.

Of course, what we're talking about is a system of making educated guesses. Emphasis on the "guess" part of the equation. Anyone who's actually putting money on any prediction beyond 5 years being accurate is bound to get a quick kick up the jacksie, in any field.

I defy you to find a consistantly successful futurist - for the most part, they just make a *lot* of guesses and then focus on the ones that are right.

For the most part, I suspect a science fiction novel would provide you with as accurate a view of the future as most futurists.

So, should this incorrect prediction cause us to look more closely at the predictions of futurists? No - we should have been looking closely and skeptically already.

Not so far off (5, Informative)

Daemonik (171801) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434927)

We might never have personal helicopters or jetpacks carrying us around but there is a plan to better utilize our small airports being worked on that could create airlines that work more like taxi's than buses. Check it out at Popular Science [popsci.com] .

Bad Predictions (2, Interesting)

recordalator (263910) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434935)

Do wildly wrong predictions like this give futurists pause? I think they should.

There's a lot to be learned from Bad Predictions [elsewherepress.com] of the past. You can often tell a lot more about people from what they get wrong than what they get right.

Sixty years ago no one could have predicted the... (1)

t (8386) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434936)

frivolus lawsuit. Any company that makes flying anything will be sued into oblivion. It's no coincidence that existing modes of transportation basically got grandfathered in, otherwise they would get sued to hell.

Lets start a betting pool, how long after the "ginger" device (or whatever it is not called) is publicly available that the first lawsuit hits it?

Re:Sixty years ago no one could have predicted the (2)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434974)

Too late. [humorisdead.com]

Linus's mom dies in Helsinki blast. (-1, Offtopic)

sn00perz (597488) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434939)

At least five people have been killed in a large explosion in a shopping centre on the outskirts of the Finnish capital, Helsinki, say reports. One of the dead was identified as Anna Torvalds, mother of Linus Torvalds, creator of free Unix like operating system. more info here [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Linus's mom dies in Helsinki blast. (1)

Jouster (144775) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435061)

Went to the link, looked around - yes, people died, but no mention of Anna.

Can you cite sources?

Jouster

Humans and flight. (1)

jigokukoinu (549392) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434950)

Fortunately, flight has been much better governed than driving was. Safety problems showed up as people becan driving in greater numbers and as planes became more readily available, we took it upon ourselves as a society to govern them more closely to protect ourselves. Could you imagine your 16 year old child going out to fly their first plane with you in the passenger seat?

There is just so much more to keep track of at higher speeds, when navigating in all 3 dimensions and without set, easily followed paths. :)

Re:Humans and flight. (2)

Scratch-O-Matic (245992) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435283)

Could you imagine your 16 year old child going out to fly...

In the U.S. you can fly solo at 16 (with a student license) and be fully licensed at 17.

Flying Cars are here (2, Informative)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434951)

SkyCar [moller.com]

World record Vaporware is held by them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435086)

Come on that thing has been around for years and years and gone no where.

Lusers in the air (3, Insightful)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434958)

The reason we don't have personal helicopters or aerocars or whatever is because they aren't luser friendly. People are bad enough in cars when they don't have a hundreds of feet drop below them, so imagine what would happen if your average bad driver were up in the air? Not only would he be a danger to himself, but he's going to land on something too.

So helicopters can do autorotation if something goes wrong with the engine, so what? There's another problem: the spinning blades are inherently unsafe. Just ask Vic Morrow.

It won't happen - Rocket Belts Kill (2, Funny)

brandido (612020) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434970)

How could someone even want to consider having a personal flying device when we know that Rocket Belts make people homicidal [slashdot.org] . Build a rocket belt, get killed by your business partner, simple as that.

Money (1)

bongholio (609944) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434979)

It's all about the $.. Try finding any aircraft (espcially helicopters!) that are as luxurious as your typical $20-30k family car. Now look at that aircraft's pricetag. New aircraft comparable to that car are $300k+ (probably more like $500+ to find something with car roominess, extras), and the operating costs are much higher as well...

FLY??? (0, Redundant)

McNihil (612243) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434992)

People can't even drive cars let alone fly. Right of way in the Sky? Oh boy.

Still waiting, after all these years... (3, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#4434996)

I like that line in 'That 70's Show', where Red keeps complaining how Americans were promised a 'personal helicopter in every garage', and he's still waiting...

C'mon, already, when's it gonna happen??!! They told us we'd have our own personal helicopter, and I haven't gotten mine yet, damn it."

Hang in there, Red. We're still waiting for NASA to figure this out for us.

One word (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435001)

Terrorists

fuel issues (5, Insightful)

KevinMS (209602) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435010)

I'll admit i'm not expert on this. But i do believe the faster you push something through the air the less fuel efficient it becomes. Also, keeping something In the air requires a lot of fuel. You'd think that cramming a lot of poeple into a fast flying machine would eventually become fuel efficient the more you put in, but its a fact that traveling by train is much more fuel efficient than a 767.

My car goes about 300-400 miles on a 15 gallon tank of gas. Imagine how much gas a any kind of helicopter burns in 300 miles keeping itself up and pushing itself through the air, especially with all the crazy turbulence the roters makes.

I have no doubt that fuel will get cheaper in the future and global warming is bunk, but i dont want a bunch of hippies bugging me.

Re:fuel issues (1)

trotski (592530) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435099)

> I have no doubt that fuel will get cheaper Oh bollocks.... gas prices won't go down even to early 90's levels, ever. I work in the oil industry and I can tell you that despite what you may think, there is not an unlimited amount of oil on the planet, it's sad but true. As fuel usage increases in the world and reserves go down, we may be face with a lakc in 50 or 60 years. It's sad but true, so don't expect gas prices to go down, because you'll be sadly disappointed.

Sig? quel est sig?

Re:fuel issues (2, Interesting)

AxelTorvalds (544851) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435177)

Energy is the exact problem. That's the one thing that holds a large chunk of the 20th century "future ideas" back. There are no problems making really small and powerful computers, other than energy, suppliying it and getting rid of it.

No reason we couldn't have personal planes, accept energy.

If we create room temperature super conductors and cold fusion in a bottle then it all might happen when we've got energy to just piss away but until then I wouldn't hold my breath.

ah, /., home of morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435280)

My car goes about 300-400 miles on a 15 gallon tank of gas. Imagine how much gas a any kind of helicopter burns in 300 miles keeping itself up and pushing itself through the air, especially with all the crazy turbulence the roters makes.

-your uninformed post

Robinson R-22 - 2 seat Piston Helicopter

Cruise Airspeed @ 70% Power 110 MPH (96 kts)

Average Fuel Consumption 8 to 10 GPH


-people with a clue [ksql.com]

GMC K1500 Yukon Denali

EPA MPG - 12 city, 15 highway


-the EPA [fueleconomy.gov]

So if a R-22 goes 110 miles in an hour at around 9 gallons consumed while a Yukon goes 65 miles in an hour at around 15 gallons consumed, it's plain to see that you don't know what the fuck you're talking about. For a huge percentage of americans, driving around in a Yukon is completely acceptable; there's no way that you can say the main problem with a helicopter is fuel economy.

I would say that the number one reason we don't all have helicopters is because of how much maintenance costs. A used R-22 isn't much more than a nice car, and it's really not that hard to learn to fly one, but it's unbelievably expensive to keep the thing in the air.

Perhaps we should wait just a bit longer. (1)

jlrowe (69115) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435013)

I have beel watching the "Sky Car" for about 6 years, and it is getting close. I won't be able to afford it right away, but I sure do want one!!! It would save me a lot of time getting to work!

You gotta see the pictures and info on the website. This thing is cool!

http://www.moller.com/skycar/ [moller.com]

We have the technology (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435020)

The reason we arent all flying is the greed of the evil insurance companies preventing this and many other worthwile projects.

The (the miserly, greedy, evil) insurance companies wouldnt care if all inovation would stop so long as it would increase their profits.

Only rich visionaries will get helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435024)

http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,9379,00. html

will happen vs could happen (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435027)

We've got cars like the new Audio made of all lightweight alluminum. We've got advanced engines like the VW 1.9L TDI that gets over 40mpg(same as Toyota's low hybrid electric car) and Mazda's new rotory coming in the RX8.

Other than the reasons others have metioned (basically cars are easier to drive and accendents are less fatal) is there any reason if there was demand for millions of helicopters per year we all couldn't have personal helicopters instead of cars?

Mistakes happen :) (1)

Fnagaton (580019) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435037)

People make mistakes when they predict something. Bill Gates for example was predicting a stable and crash proof version of Windows by now... Look what we still have. ;-) --- Connection terminated --- --- Blue screen of Death ---

Re:Mistakes happen :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435064)

Thanks for the sig. Now that I know that a major dip-shit is in charge of Replica Net, I know to not touch it with a 10 foot Cat5 cable!

Trying to keep up (2, Insightful)

charlie763 (529636) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435039)

I think it's a good thing that futurists predictions are further ahead than reality. We might be more inclined to push ourselves if we think we are behind schedule...

Flying cars are possible, but not a good idea (1, Insightful)

danimrich (584138) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435084)

Every now and then, some popular technology magazine writes an article about some former aircraft designer (etc.) who built a flying car that operates on gasoline.

The problem is that while one can reasonably well observe what happens in 2D, this is hardly possible in 3D. I would suggest that there is an evolutional reason for us to be moreless focused onto what lies ahead and on the ground rather than looking up into the air.
Even with 2D driving, there are a lot of fatal traffic accidents. I wouldn't want to imagine what happens if I run out of gas 100 yards above the streets of Manhattan/a lake/someone's house etc..

Flying cars would only really make sense if one could fly not just around roads, but also cross-country, which would probably cause privacy and safety concerns and raise noise levels.

Sikorsky ignored a number of problems (2)

dcavanaugh (248349) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435085)

1. Cost (capital and operating)
2. Pilot skill (individuals flying their own?)
3. Navigation
4. Parking (surely not in a multi-level garage!)
5. Air traffic control
6. Bad weather
7. Night

Aside from navigation and air traffic control, most of these problems are as serious today as when the helicopter was invented.

Sikorsky was too smart not to realize that it was never going to be a mass-market item. He was either fooling investors or fooling the government into subsidizing a project.

If we were so motivated, we could automate enough of helicopter operation to solve problems 2/3/5, but 1/4/6/7 will not go away.

Re:Sikorsky ignored a number of problems (1)

mbstone (457308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435220)

8. Stupidity

Look, if society (read: corporations) used the technology we already have, we would have:

A. Automated cars that you don't have to drive;
B. Automated foodmakers that could make, say, a simple breakfast;
C. Automated body-scrubbers that would use less soap and water than your average bath or shower;
D. Clothing that is custom made to fit your laser-scanned carcass;
E. Cell phones, fax machines, microwave ovens, TV remotes, alarm clocks, and VCRs whose features are designed such that people of ordinary intelligence can actually use and benefit from them.


The other drawbacks to the widespread use of personal aircraft are:
9. NIMBYs (on the average, two U.S. general aviation airports close every week (source: Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn [aopa.org] ); and
10. The FAA.

Nothing like a vertical take off... (2, Funny)

woogieoogieboogie (598162) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435091)

from your driveway and blowing the neighbors garbage cans over, creating huge dustclouds and taking out a few powerlines on the way to work. that will make you popular with the neighbors!!!!

Predictions vs Futuristic Fantasy (2, Insightful)

mjhans (55639) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435107)

I see many posts here about things like "2001" and other futuristic stories that now seem quaint, laughable, etc.

There's an important distinction between predicting the future and telling a story in the future. Movies such as 2001 just randomly pick a date that's "in the future" -- a time far enough away (from when it was made) that the viewer/reader can adequately suspend disbelief for the purposes of the story. Any date, really, will suffice.

You can laugh at people who make bona fide predictions that "X will happen by year Y". Those are people who actually believe such things.

But when taking in entertainment, always remember that Star Wars actually has the best blanket statement to suspend disbelief: that whole "In a galaxy far, far away" bit is nondescript but serves all purposes.

- Matt

Carter Copters (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435118)

There is a very group at work to fix some of the most serious problems with helicopters. Very promising stuff. See http://www.cartercopters.com/

Helicopter Bus Services.... (2, Interesting)

trotski (592530) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435133)

Well, a limited number of places have something like that. For example, where I live (Victoria, BC) theres a helicopter service between here, Vancouver and Seattle, runs every hour. The use little, 12 person choppers.

This is however a very special case because it takes 3 hours to get from Victoria to Vancouver by land/water even though they're only 35 kilometres apart.

Most cities that are faily close together such as say Washington and Baltimore it just makes more sense to take a bus or a train, since it's far cheeper and there is no significant time advantage. (30 min by train as opposed to 10 min by helicopter). It just isn't worth it. Until the price of gas goes down (which it probably won't) or we find alternative fuel sources, there will never by any significant helicopter commuter services. Sig? Quel est sig?

2 words: (0, Offtopic)

MrEd (60684) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435138)

Soccer moms.


At least now a sturdy fence can keep them out...

The right tool for the right job (3, Interesting)

Rik van Riel (4968) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435161)

Flight (still) has too much takeoff and landing overhead. Even if it was faster, people would go with the more convenient transport anyway.

Btw,futurists often seem to forget about people. Even if there were machines that would cook for me, why would I want it? After a stressful day of looking at source code and trying to fix bugs I like to go to the kitchen, grab a beer and start cooking. I'm not going to pay to let some machine take away my hobby!

"Futurists", hah! (4, Interesting)

hyacinthus (225989) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435192)

I am reminded of one of David Brin's essays in which he bashes George Lucas and Star Wars. (Let it be said that I've bashed Lucas and Star Wars myself a few times.) At one point Brin delivers himself of the self-serving observation that while Lucas and others like him are obsessed with the past, Brin himself looks to the future.

Yes, indeedy, where would we be if it weren't for forward-thinkers like Dave Brin? Just about the same place, I guess. Science fiction writers' track record for predicting the future isn't really any better than that of your average "Weekly World News" fortune-teller, except that the fortune-tellers tend to risk their predictive powers on such quotidian affairs as whether Brad Pitt will stay married to whoever that ditz is from "Friends", while SF writers confine themselves to lofty predictions about the fate of human society and technology. Now and again, one of the sci-fi boys will accidentally get something right, or sort of close (thus has Asimov been credited with "predicting" pocket calculators), as opposed to all those other writers who "predicted" that we'd still be using slide rules),.

As I see science fiction writers and futurists, we could have done without the whole clan of them and it wouldn't have made a scrap of difference. But one can say the same thing about any entertainment--I don't propose that entertainment _per se_ is useless, only that SF is just that, entertainment.

hyacinthus.

Affordable personal flight is still just a dream.. (5, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435222)

There are several reasons point-to-point personal flight isn't here yet (and may not ever be).

  • Technological limitations, including:

    1. Engine technology: a flying vehicle that can't glide requires highly reliable engines. Today that means turbines, but turbines are very inefficient compared with internal combustion engines. They do produce enough power to enable aircraft to fly very high, which does a lot to offset their inefficiency, since true speeds increase as you go higher.
    2. Form factor: without highly reliable engines, you'll need to be able to glide (or autorotate) to a landing. That means having airfoils on the vehicle, which greatly increases the overall size of the vehicle.
    3. Navigation and collision avoidance: only recently, with high speed miniature computers, has the technology become available to make going point to point in 3D in high traffic situations a possibility. Without it, the risk of a midair collision is too high to make it feasible for everyone to own a flying vehicle and to fly them from their homes.

  • Regulatory problems: personal aviation would be a much more popular and widely available means of travel if it weren't for the FAA. Many believe that they are necessary to ensure safety of flight, and I don't disagree with that role, but their method of regulating the industry has all but killed off personal aviation:

    1. Personal aircraft have increased in price in real, inflation-adjusted dollars by a factor of two or more in the last 30 years, and are not any safer despite their insane prices.
    2. The safety of personal aircraft has not changed significantly in the last 30 years, but the safety of automobiles has changed drastically, proving that the NHTSA's method of regulating the industry (requiring that vehicles have a minimum set of equipment and requiring that they pass certain safety tests, but requiring nothing else) is far superior to the FAA's.

      The FAA requires all of the following:

    3. The manufacturer's design must be certified by the FAA. The FAA requires specific behavioral characteristics from the aircraft.
    4. The manufacturer's manufacturing process must be certified by the FAA. The FAA must approve the materials you use, the build procedures you use, the quality control measures you use, etc.
    5. Any design changes must be approved by the FAA
    6. Changes to the manufacturing methods used to build the aircraft, including materials, techniques, machinery, etc., require that the entire manufacturing system go through recertification.
    7. Aftermarket modifications, which includes installation of new navigation and communication equipment, require the same basic certification by the FAA that airplanes require.

    8. Owners are not allowed to make any modifications themselves, nor are they allowed to do any but the most minimal maintenance (anything more requires a signoff from an FAA-approved maintenance technician, which usually means you may as well have them do the work).

    The end result is that the FAA has made it almost impossible for manufacturers and aircraft owners to improve their products. That means that aircraft safety can't improve, nor can the cost. So the only way to significantly improve an airplane's safety or cost is for the manufacturer to come out with a completely new design go through the entire certification process outlined above.

  • Public perception of flight. Many people believe that equipment failures in the air will result in instant death. For instance, many believe that if the engine of an airplane stops, the airplane will fall out of the sky, when the reality is that the pilot will be able to glide the airplane to a landing. Loss of an engine is a life-threatening issue only over mountainous terrain.

    People believe these things about aviation because the mass media (movies, news reports, etc.) has portrayed aviation in this light in order to make the news more spectacular and to make movies more exciting. But of course, that kind of excitement isn't what you're after when you're flying for real.

The bottom line is that I don't think affordable personal aviation is ever going to happen because I don't believe the FAA will ever let it happen. The trend for the past 30 years has been for airplane prices to increase while at the same time production volume has decreased. These are the symptoms of a dying market.

To resurrect affordable personal aviation, a large manufacturer (like Toyota) will have to get into the game. It will require an investment of billions (most of that will go into the mass production machinery required) and at least a couple of decades. The manufacturer will have to sell moderately capable (150 knots, 1000 mile range, 18,000 foot service ceiling, 4 seats), simple to fly airplanes for between $50,000 and $100,000. They will have to manufacture their own engines because the current manufacturers are still building engines that were designed back in the 1940's, using 1940s production techniques, for a minimum of $20,000 apiece. This will kill just about any other airplane manufacturer, who won't be able to adapt themselves to that kind of competition because the FAA won't let them. It will seriously depress the used airplane market, because nobody in their right mind would pay $70,000 for a 30-year-old 120-knot 4-seater when they can get a 150-knot brand new 4-seater for the same price.

It'll be opposed by everyone: the FAA because they're 0wn3d by the airlines, the airlines because they'll lose a lot of short to medium range business, and many current aircraft owners, who view their aircraft as investments (used aircraft currently appreciate, not depreciate).

But that's what it'll take to make affordable personal aviation a reality.

Ummm, it's illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4435256)

I'm really surprised no one seems to have mentioned this, but, it's illegal to fly an aircraft less than 500 feet over a populated area. Meaning you can't land in your driveway or downtown. There is absolutely no infra-structure in place for this kind of thing. Do you think that our government would actually support this?

No Fifth Element for me thanks (5, Interesting)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435268)

I for one would be petrified to live in a city if everyone was flying. The average driver has enough trouble paying attention on the ground. And we may also assume that many of them barely squeaked by in their driver's exam. I shudder to think of personal flight units sailing all over the place, just waiting for the day I wake up to some asshole talking on his cellphone, crashing through my window. I don't believe that it is possible for this to be made properly safe. I will never trust computer navigation systems either, they're idiots too.

Ginger scares the shit out of me as well. I'd love to pilot one, sure, but I don't need idiots whipping all over the place on these things. In all the various vehicles I've driven, I've never had an accident, for I always drive with the assumption that everyone else on the road is a complete idiot. Ie: Don't trust turn signals, speed changes, etc, without other cues to determine what the hell is really going on in that tiny brain behind the wheel. It seems to have worked so far.

One Problem With 'Choppers (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 11 years ago | (#4435281)

One problem with choppers is that they are hard to fly. They are harder than planes, and planes are harder to fly than cars are to drive. This used to be a big problem, but I think we are fast approching a time when any idiot could fly a chopper using a force-ball (you know, some 6-axis controller) and having a PC do all the work of controlling individual axis. On a side note, I think that it's much more likey that gyrocopters will ever be common than 'standard' helecopters.
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