They say getting there is half the fun, but in some cases it’s all the fun. Today’s aviation technology is taking pilots and passengers to new, exciting heights—not just in commercial planes or private jets, but personal jetpacks and flying cars. Take a trip in some of these cutting-edge flying machines and see why there has never been a better time to catch a flight.
The two villains had James Bond cornered on the rooftop when suddenly the British agent strapped on a jetpack and blasted off in a hail of bullets. While Hollywood has donned the jetpack many times since Sean Connery’s flight in the 1965 Bond film Thunderball, such personal aircrafts have been mostly grounded to the public. Enter Raymond Li, the real-life inventor who’s giving the jetpack new wings.
On a drizzling, overcast Nantucket afternoon, crowds gathered on the docks downtown to watch the flight of the Jetlev, an aquatic jetpack made newly available to the public. Floating in the harbor, a pilot nodded to the crowd and then in seconds he was thirty feet in the air, propelled by two fire-hose-strength water jets. A long tube dangled from the jetpack, attached to a small watercraft below that circulated water up and out the pack’s two spouts at around 420 pounds of force. The aquatic rocketeer negotiated the crowded harbor with ease, reaching top speeds of twenty-five miles per hour, and soaring around boats and yachts until the harbor- master finally came to shut him down. So what’s it cost to own a Jetlev? A few shekels short of $100,000.
Leave it to a group of MIT-trained engineers to create the world’s first flying car—a modern day Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Since 2006, Terrafugia Inc., a company based in Woburn, Massachusetts, has been developing the aptly named Transition, a roadable aircraft in the Light Sport Aircraft category intended for public use. The Transition will allow amateur pilots to drive to the airport, continue onto the runaway, and take off with almost never having to leave the comfort of their driver’s seat.
By road, the Transition gets a fuel-efficient thirty-five miles per gallon, and comes equipped with a cargo area specially designed to hold golf clubs. Once on the tarmac, the pilot flips a switch from the cockpit, and two wings fold down, extend out, and lock into place. After getting the green light from the tower, the Transition cruises down the runway at seventy knots for 1700 feet before lifting up, up, and away.
Terrafugia (Latin for “Escape the Earth”) designed the Transition to resolve longtime hindrances in private flight, namely “cost, weather, door-to-door travel time, and a lack of mobility at the destination.” So if a storm kicks up unexpectedly and the Transition needs to make an emergency landing, the pilot can then fold up its wings and continue on his or her merry way by road. Just think, in twenty hours of flight training (and for $279,000) you can make your island commute a breeze, while also saving some money at the pump.
One only needs to spend an afternoon on Nobadeer Beach at the height of summer to witness the growing number of jetsetters visiting the island. One after another, sleek private jets lower their landing gear overhead and ready for touchdown at Nantucket Memorial Airport. Of these winged wonders, the Citation X is one to witness…if you can catch a glimpse of it. The Citation X is the fastest business jet in the air today, reaching top speeds of 604 miles per hour. The aircraft shaves off an hour in a commute from New York to Los Angeles, and can cross six time zones on a single tank of gas.