Monday, April 05, 2004

The Wrong Stuff?

I don't usually check out books on aviation but this caught my attention. The Wrong Stuff? Attempts at Flight Before [& After] the Wright Brothers.

I can't pass up a book with brackets in the title.

It starts out with Da Vinci's Batman suit and ends with a NASA prototype with adjustable wings. Of course, the Spruce Goose gets a big mention.

Some of the planes were just too far ahead of their time. A Romanian made a plane with jet engines in 1910. Unfortunately he couldn't generate enough power or I'd be writing this on the moon.

The Convair X-6 would have been a scary plane. With the advent of nuclear subs, the Air Force began work on a nuclear plane. Not one that dropped nukes, one that flew by an atomic reactor. It could have worked but the possibility of a crash was too risky. A terrorist on the X-6 could take out not just a building but a whole city.

The greatest things were the flying cars. Almost immediately after the Wright Brothers, inventors tried to make planes that would be personal everyday vehicles. Many of them flew (including a flying Jeep) but were too expensive and/or dangerous to mass produce.

The best of these was the Goodyear Inflatoplane. Like an inflatable life raft, it could be stored in a small area, then when you pulled a cord, it blew up into a working plane with a wingspan of 22 feet. It could reach speeds of 72 mph and could fly six hours straight before refueling. Eventually Goodyear scrapped the program and went with blimps but I wish they'd kept trying.

Imagine all the destruction of wildlife (and taxpayers' dollars) that highways cause. With a flying rubber plane, like Doc said in Back to the Future, we don't need roads. And since they were made of rubber, they were essentially flying airbags. Slamming one into a building would be like bouncing a soccer ball off it.

Anybody feel like starting a letter-writing campaign to Goodyear? I want my flying car!

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