In 1944 it was predicted by Oliver Parks that flying would become as ubiquitous as driving. Up to this point in history, however, trends have been in the opposite direction. The cost of personal flight has outpaced inflation by a significant margin and the number of certified pilots as a percentage of the population has been slowly falling for the last 30 years.
Why hasn't Oliver Park's prediction panned out? It's not because we can't make airplanes that are cheap enough and good enough. Most light aircraft are less complicated and less sophisticated than most cars on the road today, given equal scales of production there is no reason why modern light aircraft shouldn't be equal to modern cars in cost. There are two main reasons that flying cars have failed:
1. Pilot training. As a flight instructor, I know first hand that learning how to fly is immensely more difficult, expensive, and time consuming than is learning how to drive. Flight training to the private pilot standard typically takes 8 months and $8,000 for a committed student. This cost in time and money is not feasible for most people... though if a national culture of flying were developed it's possible that this factor could be overcome...
2. The limited nature of the current Air Traffic Control (ATC) system.The current ATC system is scheduled to be slowly replaced by the "NextGen" system to increase efficiency, capacity and safety. Here "increasing capacity" means that the new system will be able to control maybe 12,000 flights (optimistic) simultaneously whereas the old system's capacity topped out at about 6,000. Currently there are about 5,000 flights in the air over the US at any given time. 5,000, 6,000, 12,000...
|Ghetto Flying Car|
Yes! in one elegant swoop, the data collecting and interpreting tools that will power self driving cars will also solve the two biggest obstacles to ubiquitous personal flight. If self driving cars become ubiquitous, I think it is safe to assume that the long delayed advent of ubiquitous personal flight will follow. Yayyy!
|Fantastical Future Flying Car Utopia|