Lifestyle

Alumnus soars into future with flying car

The Skycar, a flying car capable of vertical take off developed by SAIT alumnus Paul Moller, president of Moller International, was on display at the Orpheus Theatre Jan. 10. James MacKenzie PHOTO

On a chicken farm near Trail B.C., then six-year-old Paul Moller stumbled upon two exhausted hummingbirds trapped in a shed.
He brought them outside, and as fresh air filled their lungs, they were instantly invigorated.  For a moment, they hovered in his hands before disappearing into the sky. At that moment, the entranced little boy knew what he was going to do with his life.
Today, president of Moller International and SAIT alumnus Dr. Paul Moller pushes the boundaries of human transportation with a hummingbird of his own, the M400 Skycar.
Moller visited SAIT on Jan. 10 to present his life’s work, including the cherry red flying car (though he could only bring a scale model), which is said to be the world’s first personally affordable vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle.
The progression of this technology, says Moller, is the next step in the evolution of transportation, and will be more efficient and convenient than any current mode of travel.
“That is the future, whether it is filled with flying cars or some other power lift aircraft. There is no doubt it’s coming,” he said.
Moller dreams of a day when each community will have a “verti-port” and all commutes over 50 miles will be in personal flight vehicles rather than automobiles.
Yet, a lack of infrastructure to maintain such vehicles draws the line between dream and reality for Moller and his company.
“Where we had a vehicle of this nature underway, we never really had a future for it because we never really had a highway system in the sky to make it work,” he said.
Moller hopes current airline flight plans will become the foundation of a “highway in the sky,” and continue to seek the efficiency and convenience that personal flight vehicles could potentially offer.
The M400 Sky, which looks like a Cessna crossed with a Formula 1 car, comfortably fits four passengers and carries 340 kilograms. It cruises at speeds of up to 531 km/h, traveling distances of up to 1207 km and reaches a ceiling of 10,973 metres.
Its ability to drive, take off and land in limited amounts of space and fly at high speeds make the vehicle flexible. With this flexibility, Moller hopes his creation will streamline human transportation in the future.

Flight path
Moller admits he wasn’t driven to achieve in high school, but nevertheless found his way to SAIT in the late 1950s to pursue a career in aeronautics.
1957 – Moller graduates from SAIT’s Aircraft Maintenance program
“Coming to this school was a really exciting experience because you have this first-hand opportunity to learn in a practical way,” he said. “I have been awed by what has been happening at this school, and I think we need more of these schools in the United States.”
1958 – He completes SAIT’s Aeronautical Engineering program
1961 – Moller earns his Masters in Engineering at McGill University
1963 – He earns his Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering
1963 – 1972 Moller teaches aeronautics at the University of California, and helps develop the university’s aeronautical curriculum.
1983 – Moller founds Moller International where he works with organizations such as NASA and the U.S. military.

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