WASHINGTON, April 24, 2017 — Believe it or not, Orville Wright once said, “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris.”
In 1919, Parisian hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered $25,000 (roughly $340,000 in today’s dollars) to anyone for crossing the Atlantic Ocean – non-stop – from New York City to the City of Lights. Few thought it possible. Six men died while attempting the crossing.
Charles Lindbergh eventually collected that prize after landing his single-engine, Ryan M-2 “Spirit of St. Louis” at Paris’s Le Bourget Aerodrome in 1927.
Back in America, Henry Ford had made owning an automobile affordable for nearly every American, believing he could also make it possible for Americans to slip the surly bonds of Earth and take to the air.
So Ford introduced Americans to the Sky Flivver, a midget aircraft measuring 15 feet long with a wingspan of 23 feet. It was propelled by a 35-horsepower engine capable of lifting the 350-pound contraption and its single occupant off the ground.
The Flivver met Ford’s main requirement: It was “small enough to fit inside my office.”
But when a close friend and pilot died in a crash while on a Flivver promotional tour, all plans to mass produce the machine came to an end. “Mark my words,” Ford said in 1940, “a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.”
Fast forward to 2017. The smiling folks at Kitty Hawk, a flying car company based in California’s Silicon Valley and backed by Google’s Eric Page, have just released a video promoting their Kitty Hawk Flyer, which looks eerily like the speeders from the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy, “Revenge of the Jedi.”
According to the company website, the Kitty Hawk Flyer is an “all-electric aircraft” and is “safe, tested and legal to operate in the United States in uncongested areas under the Ultralight category of FAA regulations.”
The first version this flying car is designed to fly over water and will be available for sale by the end of this year.
“Our mission is to make the dream of personal flight a reality,” say the folks at Kitty Hawk. “We believe when everyone has access to personal flight, a new, limitless world of opportunity will open up to them.”
The Kitty Hawk Flyer may not make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, or outrun imperial starships. But it’s a modest first step in that direction.