The next revolution in travel will be personal

February 15, 2016

The dawn of the 21st-century was an amazing time when it comes to travel.

Think back to the start of the 19th century. Travelers were explorers and pioneers. Voyages were expeditions, crossing plains in covered wagons or trekking through forests and jungles. Or, the start of the 20th century, when an international trip meant weeks on an ocean liner. Perhaps no longer an expedition, but surely a voyage.

As the 21st century opened, we were nearing the hundredth anniversary of powered flight. Jet airliners made travel affordable for more people than ever before. Worldwide travel could be measured in hours, not months and years. The supersonic Concorde could take us between the US and Europe in the course of a morning.

Then along came September 11, 2001. The heyday of commercial air travel was fast coming to an end. The Concordes were retired. Airlines figured out how to pack their planes completely – elbow to elbow. Creature comforts were a thing of the past as more and more fees meant being nickeled and dimed for everything. Long lines, elaborate security procedures and fewer and fewer direct flights meant that travel was creeping back from hours toward days. From trip to voyage to expedition.

Here’s a common scenario:

You leave your house at least three hours before your commercial flight. Drive anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half (possibly in the exact opposite direction from your ultimate destination) to the nearest of the 500 or so airports served by airlines. (Did you know there are almost 10 times as many airports which are not served by commercial airlines? These are all available to private pilots…)

Find a place to park your car and drag your luggage for what seems like a mile through the terminal. Wait on the security line, then strip down to your skivvies (OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – just take off your hat, jacket, belt, shoes and empty your pockets). After you’ve been subjected to a full body scan and maybe been randomly chosen for the prize of a pat down, you can go sit and wait until your delayed flight finally boards.

After sitting wedged in between a couple of linebackers while the baby behind you screams incessantly and the woman in front reclines her seat all the way into your lap, your flight finally lands. But it’s running late, and you find yourself sprinting through the terminal to try to make your connection on the next flight, foregoing a chance to grab lunch along the way.

Finally, panting, clammy, hungry and exhausted you drop yourself into the next seat for the next leg of your trip. Eventually you land at your destination airport. Now, it’s another 45-minute wait for the bag you thought was carry-on – until the flight attendant took it from you. Then on to the shuttle to wait for your rental car.  Your 2-hours of jet flight has taken you an entire stressful day, and you’re still at an airport that’s an hour from your actual destination. Sounds all too familiar, right?

After a major revolution in travel we’ve taken a giant step backwards!  So, what will the next revolution be? My contention is that we have to make the next revolution in travel a very personal one. The uber-rich have already done this. They have their private jets… So what will it be for the rest of us?

This is the promise of the Switchblade flying car. Sure, it won’t replace commercial air travel for trans-oceanic flights. But, for many domestic flights the Switchblade will make travel for one or two people a joy compared to commercial air travel.

Let’s look at that same day of travel, once you’re in control:

You and your travel companion head out to your garage. You’ve already placed your bags into your Switchblade, checked the weather and prepared your flight plan at your leisure the evening before. During a very short drive (in the direction you actually want to travel) to a small nearby airport, you chat on your cell phone with a flight briefer who confirms your understanding of the weather and makes sure you’re aware of any conditions which might affect your flight.

No line for security when you arrive, just punch in the proper code to open the gate. You pull your Switchblade over near the beginning of the runway to perform the conversion to flight mode – extending the wings & tail and switching the dashboard to aeronautical instruments. After a few minutes, you’ve completed a “pre-flight” checklist, called out on the radio, and it’s full throttle for takeoff!

Unlike the glimpse you may get from the window seat of an airliner, as you climb out over the countryside you’re treated to a panoramic view. When you planned your flight, you’d built-in some breaks – because you’re not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. So after flying for a while you land, stretch your legs, use a restroom that’s bigger than a broom closet and refuel.

Then it’s back in the air, marveling at the view, chatting with your passenger, maybe some nice relaxing music in your headphones… When you were planning your trip, you sought out recommendations, and planned your route to be able to land at lunchtime very near a restaurant that had gotten rave reviews. So after the conversion back to driving mode, it’s off to have an excellent, leisurely lunch. A quick stop at a gas station on the way back to the airport and it’s off-again on the next leg of your trip.

Then another quick stop for fuel and a chance to stretch your legs and it’s on to the final leg. When you land, you’re much nearer your destination than the nearest “major” airport. You happily spend a few minutes chatting with the crowd that’s gathered around, amazed at seeing your wings and tail disappear, and in awe as you drive off the airport and on to your destination.

So, you’ve spent more time in the air than you would have on those jets traveling two or three times as fast, and it’s still taken the day to reach your destination. But it’s been a stress free, relaxing day. Your experience of flying has been like the difference between riding the bus and driving a sports car. And, oh by the way, you’re at your destination and you are driving your sports car – not some rented econo-box.

Make your own travel revolution. I know I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I climb into my Switchblade.

-Peter Dessart

Switchblade, Samson Sky, Skybrid, and Skybrid Technology are trademarks or registered marks, and are used with permission on these pages.

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