On the Swiss Jetman, Flying Cars and Robot Sex
A year ago a 50-year-old Swiss air-devil named Yves Rossy wowed the world by flying his homemade jetpack — really more of a mini jet plane worn on the back, but still — clear across the English Channel. Rossy’s fantastic machine burned four small jet engines to propel the 130-pound carbon wings and the man strapped to them. Pulse-quickening video footage of the flight zapped freely into countless homes and lives. It was the dawn of a beautiful new age of jetpackery.
That was then.
Last week, the day before those of us stateside feasted on birds of an altogether different sort, Rossy attempted an even more ambitious ride: 24 miles in 13 minutes at 140 MPH across the Straight of Gibraltar, from Morocco to southern Spain. But, as Morrissey wisely noted, plans can fall through, and so often they do. And fall Rossy did, halfway through the expected trip, splashing roughly down and then bobbing in the choppy Atlantic. Too much turbulence, wouldn’t you know. Happily, the former military pilot was not hurt. In fact, he appeared to emerge with even his ego unbruised, telling reporters that, “Nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved on the first attempt. One tries and tries again.”
Rossy’s bravery is certainly admirable but he has likely done very little to inspire other would-be James Bonds. There are far easier ways to go for a dip, after all. If any such creatures still exist, chances are they would rather be flying a car these days then a jetpack. At least that’s the impression one gets from this story that ran earlier this week.
If you feel like it is a perennial event that a piece of journalism wonders whatever happened to flying cars, that’s because it is. But this new item has the added benefit of containing new information. Like the fact that there are a dozen — that’s 12! — companies in this country alone developing flying car prototypes and at least one of them plans to swoop to market by the end of 2011. There are, of course, practical questions — will the FAA ever approve the idea, who in the world can afford them when they start at 100 K — but push all of that out of your pretty little heads for just a minute and let’s dream a big dream, shall we?
It’s the winter of 2011. The economy is, miraculously, now humming along and there are even, occasionally, jobs to be had. (I know, but stick with me.) Health care reform has passed and low-income women still have access to legal, financially viable abortions (I said stick with me!). We have won the war in Afghanistan, or, at least, we didn’t lose it entirely. And you are flying your car to work, Minority Report style. On the way home, you slalom the sky tenderly through snowflakes the size of a kitten’s paw. It’s quiet, so quiet, in your bubble-topped wonder-pod that you can almost hear the construction crews on Mars, the jet-fueled jackhammers clanging through space. You glide into your rooftop docking slot and laugh a little about all the rumpus alternate-side parking regulations once caused. If you would like, you can now commence making love to your flawlessly calibrated robot wife right there in the car. The space inside the vehicle might be a tad tight, but robots have special skills.
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