Where’s my jetpack?

Chief reporter

It’s 2010 and I’m sitting in an air conditioned office, typing words onto the screen of a sleek Mac computer, occasionally checking messages on my Blackberry and sipping water that was easily accessed from the kitchen tap.

This seemingly inconsequential moment in my life has been made possible by nothing short of remarkable engineering efforts over the last hundred or so years. The flurry of activity that took place over the last century also added to loads of other examples of technological achievements scattered about the office and home. All of which have created the modern, comfortable life we know.

While I am deeply grateful for the convenience of indoor plumbing or thank heavens the Internet, I cannot help but take a look around the 21st century and feel, well, a little disappointed.

Maybe Hollywood is to blame, but somehow I thought by now my morning commute would be by jet pack or perhaps teleportation when I was feeling a little optimistic about the plasticity of the laws of physics.

After all, we are supposed to be in ‘the future’ or at least close to it. In the 1989 blockbuster film Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly travels into the future world of 2015 where flying cars take off vertically and kids zoom around on hoverboards. That’s a seemingly ambitious view of the future for London in 2015, considering no one even expects Crossrail to be done by then.

Yet there was a little glimmer of the sci-fi future we were promised this week with the news of a flying car being developed for commercial sale in the US.

It was announced the ‘Transition’ developed by MIT aeronautical engineers at US based Terrafugia has been given an exemption by the FAA to legally fly as a ‘light sport’ aircraft despite exceeding the weight limit for aeroplanes within that classification.

With its wing folded up, the two-seater Transition can travel at highway speeds on any road using its front-wheel drive. The vehicle achieves a 4×4 comparable 30 miles per gallon and runs on high-test automotive unleaded petrol. Once it has arrived at the airport and enters onto the tarmac, it can fold down its electrically powered wings, engage its rear-facing propellor and take off down the runway. 

At a cost of £129,000, the Transition is not intended for the mass market and Richard Gersh, vice president of business development for Terrafugia, said his company is targeting the flying car initially to existing pilots.

While the Transition is being readied to meet American vehicle and aircraft standards, a spokesman from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said such a flying car could be approved for use in the UK if it met the EU requirement for aircraft design set by the European Aviation Safety Agency based in Cologne.

However the popularity for such a car might be limited in the UK, he said, because it lacks the thousands of airports and great distances in the US. He also added that he didn’t see the Transition bringing forward a Jetsons-like flying car vision of the future.

‘If you think of the M25 in the air, how is it going to work?’ he said.