Last night I couldn't sleep. Due to COVID-19, the daily news on 'flying cars' all but stopped completely. I decided to scratch in the archives of flying car news and I came upon the 1991 Popular Mechanics cover story on the Moller Skycar. About 30 years ago, that article changed my life.
In 1991 I was 12 years old. At 12 you truly believed everything you read in the media. Since I can remember I had been fascinate by everything flying. My parents took me to every airshow close by. My dream, since about the age of 3 was to become a pilot. More specific, a fighter pilot.
In 1989 a movie called "Robot Jox" was released. I watched the movie with my mother. In this movie the protagonist owns a flying car. This was my very first introduction to the concept of a personal flying vehicle that can be used on a daily basis that doesn't require a runway. When the hero of the film used his flying car to travel home after retiring from piloting a huge fighting robot, my mother spoke these words "One day, when you are an adult, there really will be flying cars." Her words stuck in my head.
Two years later I came upon the Moller article. I was completely blown away. The article opens with a glimpse into the future where a man in 1999 gets into his Moller Skycar, starts it up (with the two on-board computers checking the engines), pulls it out of the garage and from his driveway the Skycar lifts of 'silently' and after 'hover checks' the man zips off to work...
I did the math. By 1999 I would be 20. I would be an adult, so what was going to stop me from owning that beautiful machine? My future was set. Just like the guy in 'Robot Jox' I would come home from a day of piloting fighter jets (where he piloted giant robots) and land my bright red Skycar in my driveway.
I cut the article out of the magazine, put it in a plastic sleeve and re-read it about a thousand times. I kept it with my other 'treasures', the place where I kept my most prized toys. When I was 14 we went on vacation and our house was burgled. The only thing that they left in the house was a broken TV. My article was gone.
Also some time later I read a DC Comics "Starman" comic and at the close of the story the superhero is offered a lift in a "Moller Skycar". In my mind it told me that Skycars was on everybody's minds.
I never forgot about Moller, his Skycar and his promise.
In my late teens I even found the Skycar in books in the Library. By then doubt started creeping into my mind. I was nearing 20 and nobody owned a Skycar.
Still, I didn't forget.
In the mid 2000's I gained access to the internet. Honest to suzie, one of the first things I googled was "Moller Skycar" and lo and behold, there was a website! Paul Moller was still working on it!
Unfortunately the website was not the only thing that was on the internet about the Skycar. There where many articles on Paul Moller. Some good, but many where bad. Critical. They were calling him a crook. A snake oil salesman. He had cheated his stockholders out of a lot of money by making misleading statements. I got angry. Not at Moller, but at the media trying to destroy this man's dream.
I found blog's and message boards. I found other people equally enthusiastic about this dream as me. There where a few people on this blog critical of Moller. I hated them. Why rain on my parade? Why rain on Moller's parade? But, alas, some of them made sense. I ignored them. Why listen to their poison?
Then came 2011. In October the Skycar would fly at last in front of the media. Like other fanboys (some where real estate millionaires and some had MBA's, how could I not be in good company?), I grabbed my pom-pom's and cheered. But, as the date of the demonstration flight neared I started noticing how the company handled the situation. Their own posts went from 'It is definitely going to happen', to 'We are positive it is going to happen, to 'Get off our backs! This is not as easy as it looks!' to complete silence by the end.
And that was my watershed moment.
Since then Paul Moller has declared that he was always overly optimistic.
Last night I also looked at his TED talk, his one lecture at his old University (I think), a lunch that was taped with him and 'Mr Future' and I cannot help but feel sorry for him.
If the 'hummingbird' story is to be believed, them he has had his dream of personal VTOL flight for nearly 80 years. 80 years. As someone who has had to let go of dreams I can only think how he must feel.
Unlike me, he has worked very hard to realize those dreams, but now, his own dream of bringing a 'Volantor' to market must feel as far away as ever. There is no money to continue his work. The prospects of Freedom Motors, in my own opinion, is all talk and no cash.
But, listening to his TED talk, his lectures and interviews one must confess that his vision of the future of personal transportation is almost exactly the same as the one that Uber and the likes are professing now. The only differences being that Moller always had the idea of individuals owning Skycars, where the current train of thought is hailing these vehicles like taxis as opposed to owning one.
Paul Moller is turning 84 this year. I know he is working very hard on 'life extension' for himself. I know his Skycar will never fly, but my hope for him is to see people traveling from 'vertiports' in VTOL aircraft before he passes on.
On another note, all these EVTOL aircraft are cool, but none still look as good as the M400 Skycar. Especially the one often referred to as the "Merlin".