The Personal Flight Vehicles That Never Became Popular

Did you know that hovercrafts could be this adorable — why did the U.S. military the kibosh on them? In a parallel, tidily retro-futuristic universe, we are all riding our X-Jets and WASPs to work. Via Retronaut:

Nicknamed “The Flying Pulpit”, the Williams X-Jet It could move in any direction, accelerate rapidly, hover, and rotate on its axis, staying aloft for up to 45 minutes and traveling at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. It was evaluated by the U.S. Army in the 1980s, and was deemed inferior to the capabilities of helicopters and small unmanned aircraft.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    I blame it on the irrepressably puckish sense of humor of the engineer submitting the blueprints for patent.  It may be funny, but it’s pretty poor ergonomics to include a toggle switch that sets the rotor blades in reverse motion for a “frappé” setting.  Americans are likely to think that means “over-drive” or some such.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5OQFBZ26C3VQ5ONGZGDBDY4BUU Mark A

    You see military possibilities, I see an army of Santas.

  • Okarin

    it probably used electricity instead of gas and went the way of who killed the electric car?

  • http://www.jaycob.co.nf/ Scruffy

    The only reason we’re still driving ground vehicles is, people would be harder to control if they could fly anywhere they wanted. Ultralight aircraft’s would cost less resources to mass produce, they’d be safer, more convenient.

    Oh and also because the US’s plan to deal with an invasion is to quickly convert their car manufacturing plants into tank manufacturing plants.

    • Redacted

      If we waited until we were invaded to mass produce tanks it would be too late.

      Thats probably why we have 15,000 Abrams just sitting in our Strategic Reserve.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    I recall seeing this X-jet back in the early 80′s on a tv show called “That’s Incredible”. Pretty sure it was that show, but it might have been one of a similar ilk like “Ripley’s” or “Real People”.

    I recall that one of the concerns with the device was the proximity of the high speed turbine to delicate and important parts of the pilot’s anatomy. 

    Surprisingly, they don’t mention that eternal piece of vaporware, the Moller Skycar. Well maybe that’s not surprising given that this article is covering actual devices with testable capabilities rather than a machine capable only of perpetual hype.

    Yeah, I’m a little bitter about Moller’s broken promises.

    • http://www.jaycob.co.nf/ Scruffy

       It’s just another way that the Man is keeping us down :P

  • anon

    I blame it on the fact that people are such enormous fuck ups when they only have the xy plane to drive in.  Imagine all the new new problems when the z axis is introduced.

  • Anonimo

    Reminds me of bowser…

  • oldbroad

    Can you imagine people texting and flying these things pure disaster!