Engineer Develops Personal Helicopter

“We’re either lucky or good,” he adds. “I’m not sure which, but it’s a smooth running machine, and we spent a lot of time making sure that would be the case.”

The first flight of the vehicle will come sometime after the wind tunnel tests, if that proves successful.

The obvious applications for the machine are military and law enforcement, but that won’t be enough to satisfy the folks at Millennium Jet, who have dug into their own pockets to finance the venture.

“The really big market is folks like you and I who would want one of these machines and be able to get one,” Moshier says. “That’s longer term, but that’s the ultimate direction.”

Moshier won’t even venture a guess as to when that might be, or what it will cost for us to each have our own personal flying machine in the driveway. And even he admits he’s a little concerned about the vision of zillions of these things ripping across crowded skies, carrying each of us on our merry way.

“But I would remind you that 100 years ago when they were introducing cars to replace horses, that same discussion popped up,” he says.

The cars, in case you haven’t noticed, won that battle.

Helmet and Warm Clothes Required

Yet to be demonstrated are a few minor points. Is it practical, does anybody really need it, and is it safe?

The twin props are positioned above and behind the operator, so to get a hand stuck in a fan, “you would have to do it on purpose,” Moshier says.

The operator would have to wear some protective clothing, like a motorcycle helmet and gear similar to what is worn for snowmobiling.

“You wouldn’t want to be standing out there in your shorts,” Moshier says.

But why, one might reasonably ask, would these folks, operating on a shoestring budget, succeed where so many others have failed. Moshier says it’s because of the entrepreneurial spirit that gives the little guy the edge over the giants.

“Boeing could never take this on,” Moshier says. “Their shareholders would say, you want to do what?”

Still, it’s not a venture for the faint of heart.

“It’s scary in many ways,” Moshier says. “But we believe in what we are doing. Even NASA is quick to point out that it’s not a question of whether it will work. It’s a question of how long will it take to debug whatever shows up when we actually do the flight testing phase.”

If it’s anything like SoloTrek, it will be an awkward looking contraption that will bring the dreams of Da Vinci to life.

Eat your heart out, 007.

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on ABCNEWS.com. A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

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