One time a good buddy had not only gotten his pilot’s license but also certification to teach flying as well. So he was out for some business, and guess who he targeted as his first pupil.
I was mortified.
I do not like heights, so I had to think twice one time when I got a kind offer to fly with the Civil Air Patrol. I had a chance to write a newspaper story about the fine volunteer group’s search and rescue abilities.
So off I went into the wild blue yonder. I felt pretty calm in the rear seat of the little airplane and was caught up in asking questions and gathering stories and taking photos while in mid-flight.
While I felt in control of my acrophobia I discovered another problem, motion sickness. Not used to flying, I ended up losing my lunch in the convenient paper bag in the flap on the back of the pilot’s seat. I quit asking questions.
So I declined, repeatedly, my buddy’s invitations to take flying lessons. I did let him fly me one time over to another county, though, when he needed somebody to drive his car back home.
Perhaps I was a bit hasty in dismissing flying. My buddy seemed to love it, as did a next-door neighbor in another city one time. The neighbor was a corporate-jet pilot. He graciously took me up in his own airplane for a joy-flight, much like I used to take my motorcycle out for joy-riding.
Back in the day Mom seemed intrigued with flight here in the hometown. She liked to drive over to Swan Creek and to the airstrip when it was new. She liked to watch planes take off.
She had an aunt who lived near Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, and during a visit one time she had her uncle, who worked for the old Piedmont Airlines, take us over for a look. He gave me a print of a Piedmont plane in flight that I kept up in my room here for a long time when I was a boy.
But my Civil Air Patrol flight and a lean income has kept me grounded, in more ways than one. But for the moment I’ll stick to the topic of flying.
There were two predictions that would fire my imagination when I was a kid. They were things that I was looking forward to when I grew up.
One was space travel. When I was a kid mankind was headed to the moon and other planets, just like in science-fiction movies and TV shows. That prediction came true with the premiere moon landing in 1969. Space travel since, however, has been slow to develop.
The other prediction was flying cars. They showed them in science fiction, and I even got a kid’s book on cars one time that included stickers that I could tear out and glue in a coloring book.
My favorite was not a sticker with a picture of a Model T or a Studebaker from the 1940s. Rather, it was a futuristic Ford-model flying car.
It looked like it had a big fan in the hood, but the book didn’t explain to kids how it would work. The book had a cartoon of a man in an early ‘60s business suit and a woman with a Jackie Kennedy hairdo flying serenely by a scared bird.
That idea didn’t get off the ground, you might say.
They tried. The most famous early flying car was the Aerocar in 1949. It looked like an old Fiat with wings on the top and a propeller in the back. Six models were built but the designer never got enough preorders to make more.
Similar efforts were tried over the years. I thought they had something when ultralight aircraft came out in the late 1970s. Those looked like hang gliders with a frame and a motor and propeller underneath.
But ultralights are restricted to flying in daylight hours and cannot fly near cities. They did not catch on.
Now someone’s having another go at it. Entrepreneur Carl Dietrick is saying that he will have a flying car on the market in 2017, though he keeps pushing the date farther out. The aeronautical engineer says the car will fly at 100 mph and drive up to 70 mph. The current price tag is $270,000. That would make it a plaything for the rich, but it’s a start.
The Terrafugia Transition flying car, as it’s called, looks like a miniature airplane cockpit with wings sprouting from what normally would be the back seat. Dual tail fins are attached to the back.
The idea is to drive the thing to an airport, then fly it to another airport, and then drive off. It would require a pilot’s license as well as a driver’s license.
It looks like with the wings folded it would fit neatly into my carport.
I won’t live to see it, but wouldn’t it be something if some day everybody’s car has wings. Then the future will have arrived. Calling George Jetson!
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.