Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... an Aeroscraft?
A Tarzana, Calif., company has been working on a new kind of aircraft that looks more like a flying cruise liner than anything inhabiting the skies today.
"It's not a blimp, it's not an airship, it's a totally new vehicle," said Edward Pevzner, business development manager for Worldwide Aeros Corp.
"Today we have three types of vehicles -- air vehicles, which are airplanes, helicopters and airships [blimps]. So this Aeroscraft, as we're going to call it, is going to be the fourth type. And it is going to combine technologies of all three other vehicles."
Roughly the size of two football fields, the Aeroscraft can be used as a military transport for troops, artillery and equipment; as a cargo transport service in the spirit of Federal Express or UPS; as a commuter transport service; and as a luxury travel option.
Cruise From New York to Los Angeles on Business
The Aeroscraft moves much slower than a conventional airplane -- a coast-to-coast trip would take about 18 hours.
But for the luxury traveler or businessman on the go who might be willing to pay the high price of a first-class airline ticket, it's not about getting there fast; it's about enjoying the trip, Pevzner said.
"The Aeroscraft is not going to take you to New York in six hours -- it'll take you to New York in 18 hours -- but you'll have your own room to sleep and rest in during the flight, you'll have a meal in a restaurant -- it'll be a restaurant meal instead of airplane food," he said. "You'll be able to work if you need to in a normal environment, and once you reach New York you will not need a 10-hour rest for your next meeting, so you'll come out of the Aeroscraft and you'll be able to conduct business right away."
Pevzner said that when configured as a cruise ship, the craft would able to hold about 250 people as well as offer a wealth of amenities.
Restaurants, nightclubs, spas, casinos and sleep cabins are among the facilities the craft could come outfitted with -- just like a luxury ocean liner.
Commuting in the Clouds
Commuters in places like the Hawaiian Islands could make their daily trek to work a little more enjoyable, Pevzner said.
"Currently, they just have these little boats," he said. "The Aeroscraft will provide not just the commuting service, it also will provide a very nice cruise adventure where you fly over all these beautiful places, and it flies relatively low, so it'll provide you with nice views and a nice travel experience."
Taxpayers would also save money because the craft is capable of vertical takeoff and landing -- just like a helicopter -- so there are many more options for where it can land, unlike an airplane, which needs a runway, or a cruise ship, which needs a dock.
A Walrus for the Military?
For the military, Pevzner said, the benefit would be the ease of movement for hundreds of tons of cargo, units or equipment into battle with relative ease.
Instead of having troops travel by plane and equipment travel by boat, the Aeroscraft would make sure everything gets there at the same time and for much less money than with current methods.
"The idea is to build a vehicle that is going to transport 500 tons of cargo," he said. "It'll go 12,000 nautical miles in seven days, and it'll be able to transport units -- about 1,800 troops -- equipment, tanks, whatever else, and have this vehicle able to land on an unprepared field with obstacles of up to five feet."
Worldwide Aeros Corp. was in competition with Lockheed Martin Corp. to produce a new transport for the military called Walrus. But according to Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the main research wing for the Department of Defense, funding for the project was pulled and will end this summer.
But that doesn't deter Pevzner or the people at Aeros.
"Right now, we are in prototype development, so probably within 18 months we'll have the prototype ready," he said. Once that we show the technology and we prove that we have the solution -- which I know we do -- once this technology is proven, then we'll go to a full-scale production."
Pevzner said several companies -- from leisure travel to shipping -- have expressed interest in Aeroscraft.
Aeros' hope is that it's not too long before many of us will trade a shorter trip for a longer, more pleasurable journey.