OP-ED | Hyperloop, Flying Cars, and the Flying Fortress
Nearly eight weeks ago, Connecticut’s gas tax rose again, costing motorists a few more cents per gallon at the pump. After a short stretch of complaining, the grumbling waned as the new price — and the constant fluctuations of gas prices generally — became the new normal.
Politicians grumbling about high gas prices are nothing new. They have probably existed as long as both politicians and gasoline. There remains little evidence of the effectiveness of the argument. The groundswell of public support for measures aimed at reducing gas prices never seems to materialize.
This isn’t to say that consumers aren’t sensitive to the market dynamics of gasoline. Sales of electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt continue to rise. According to one industry report, June 2013 was one of the strongest sales months for electric cars ever, with more than 9,000 vehicles sold. One of the newest entrants to this marketplace is Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors. The Tesla Model S earned the best score ever from Consumer Reports, receiving 99 out of 100 available points in tests at the magazine’s East Haddam, Conn. test track. An incredible 8.4 percent of the luxury cars sold in the first six months of 2013 were the Model S. Service centers in Wilton and New Haven are listed as “Coming Soon” on the Tesla Motors website.
If electric cars are quickly becoming today’s best method of escaping high gas prices and improving personal transportation, then Mr. Musk’s latest project — the Hyperloop — may be a big part of the answer tomorrow. Musk released his proposal for the Hyperloop this week, writing that it represents a “fifth mode of transportation” that could, in theory, shrink the trip from San Francisco to LA to a 35-minute commute. It also promises to cost just a fraction of the price of a new interstate or the “high speed” rail line that it aims to replace in California. Just when we start to think our problems are intractable, innovation — or even just the prospect of innovation — comes along to suggest otherwise.
The future of travel doesn’t stop there. In fact it is being built and dreamed about by some of our neighbors in Massachusetts. The company Terrafugia is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Transition, an airplane that converts into a car in less than 60 seconds. The Transition made its first public flight demonstration at the AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin a few weeks ago. The Terrafugia website also features that company’s vision for the future of human transport, the flying car. Although 2015 — the year Marty McFly travels to in the sci-fi classic Back to the Future II — is just two years away, the mass-produced flying car hasn’t arrived yet. But Terrafugia’s TF-X suggests it might be closer than one might think.
While mankind continues to dream about how to get to the future, the skies over Hartford this week provide a reminder of just how far we’ve come. This weekend, the “Memphis Belle” B-17 Flying Fortress is on display at Brainard Airport and a crew will be offering rides and tours of the flying behemoth. The original Memphis Belle saw copious action in the deadly skies over Europe, including more than 148 hours of combat missions and dropping more than 60 tons of bombs, yet never lost a crew member. The version of the aircraft on display this weekend in Hartford was built shortly before the end of the war and saw no action, but was made available to movie producers in Hollywood on occasion and is in great shape. It is a proud legacy that continues today.
To schedule a tour or for more information, call 918-340-0243.
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com