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The Journal Gazette

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Thursday, April 27, 2017 1:00 am

Dream of flying car can't be kept down

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

I'm a baby boomer, so I grew up reading about flying cars and hearing fanciful predictions that one day we'd all travel by air just like the Jetsons and Emmett Brown in “Back to the Future.”

Fortunately, the flying car never really came to pass. Driving on the ground is stressful enough without cars also flying over your head.

Oh, there was a version of a flying car made in the 1950s. It was called the Aerocar and used a trailer to pull its wings behind it on the highway, so it looked ridiculous. But you could drive into an airport, attach the wings and take off. It wasn't attractive even when airborne. It looked something like an old Vauxhall. But it flew.

Only about one person – the guy who built it – was interested in having one. That puts him in the category of the guy who tied a bunch of helium weather balloons to a lawn chair and floated into the sky about 35 years ago.

People have continued to pursue the concept of flying cars, but they've never caught on.

One reason might be that the price tag for a flying car generally runs into the millions. If you've got that much money, you're probably just going to get a regular airplane and a really nice car to drive to the airport and save yourself a couple of million dollars.

That, it appears, is changing.

It turns out the co-founder of Google is backing a project to develop what is being called a flying car. It's supposed to be on the market before long. It will still be pricey, about $100,000.

I guess when you have an economy that cranks out a few billionaires every year, it was inevitable that one would eventually throw a minuscule fraction of his wealth at a company that would try, yet again, to build a flying car.

Actually, this new version really can't be called a flying car. It resembles a giant drone, and it has floats, not wheels.

It's battery-powered, which has environmental types happy because it is in theory non-polluting.

The car, as it is called, is designed to take off and land from water.

In a video, the craft is seen buzzing the surface of a calm lake or something with a bunch of postcard-pretty houses along the shore in the background.

Supposedly it takes only a little while to learn to fly the thing. The main drawback is that you've also got to be light. It's not designed for king-sized people.

When I saw the video, though, I thought, there goes the fishing.

It's bad enough that so many of our lakes are completely overrun with ski boats.

Now it appears there's going to be a chance that we'll have gigantic manned drones flitting around above lakes, swooping down on fisherman like giant moths.

I shouldn't let that bother me. I don't own a boat, so even if this machine catches on, I'll never be dive-bombed by one.

Personally, I can't see this thing catching on, but if it does, at least it won't be on the roads.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.