July 26, 2001
12:32 PM   Subscribe

"I think the potential of the small-plane technology revolution is to make small planes seem more reasonable to people below the millionaire class," says James Fallows, author of Free Flight, a book in which Fallows advocates the use of safe next-generation compact airplanes to act as air-taxis, thus offering the masses an alternative to the hub-and-spoke system of air travel.
posted by Avogadro (7 comments total)
In the UK Richard Noble (the man behind the Thrust land speed record attempts - relive it here!) is putting together a similar aircraft, the Farnborough F1 . His vision is to hook the planes up to city-based taxi services, creating a seamless door to door service.

The 'free skies' concept doesn't really apply to the UK's crowded skies, but might make sense in the US. The technology still isn't there yet, although NASA's projected SATS system is a step in the right direction. In the 1950s, there were even a couple of drive-in movie theatres with their own runways and special plane parking, in anticipation of the expected boom in private air travel!

Hubs and spokes are clearly flawed, but might be overcome with longer-range aircraft. Personally, I think that skies thick with private planes would be rather unpleasant, however efficient the technology was at preventing collisions, etc. God knows we don't need more planes in the sky.
posted by jonathanbell at 1:49 PM on July 26, 2001

There aren't going to be any more transportation revolutions based on engines and airfoils. Designers and inventors, think antigravity. Think flying belts. Think teleportation.
posted by jfuller at 1:54 PM on July 26, 2001

Cost is not the only factor keeping each American from having their own plane. Airplanes requires too much skill to operate, unlike simple automobiles. Not everyone who can drive a car would have the coordination or knowledge to grasp flight.
posted by brucec at 2:08 PM on July 26, 2001

Not everyone who can drive a car would have the coordination or knowledge to grasp flight.

And thank God for that.
posted by jennaratrix at 2:16 PM on July 26, 2001

Not everyone who can drive a car would have the coordination or knowledge to grasp flight.

Not everyone who drives a car has the coordination or knowledge to grasp driving a car! And some grasp it so well, they think they can talk on the phone, put on makeup, and read a book - multi-tasking.

Ow! My neck... I ... I ... I think it's whiplash.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 6:42 PM on July 26, 2001

Ive flown in small craft and they are not pleasant for long distance hopping around. Loud, cramped. If your not piloting and your in the back seat theres not much to look at or do except hope you dont get motion sickness ..
posted by stbalbach at 6:46 AM on July 27, 2001

As Avogadro points out, Fallows is not talking about everyone having their own plane for bopping around, but rather making use of the vastly underutilized small airports and airfields in the US to support what he calls "air-taxis" or "air-limos" -- commercial services that use these much smaller aircraft.

Personally, I hate even flying in the not-so-small commuter planes that are already highly utilized by the major airlines. I remember a particularly bad flight from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh where we couldn't quite get above a thunderstorm.

I read the excerpt of this book in the June Atlantic, and after a few pages I half expected him to start talking about auto-gyros and flying rocket-packs. I usually like Fallows, but this just seems like he let his own flights of fantasy (pun intended) get the best of him. I think he was probably depressed after his year at Microsoft.
posted by briank at 7:06 AM on July 27, 2001

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