“It’s amazing. If this thing didn’t have all these limiters on it, I would’ve taken it up to 500′ and just flown back to the strip,” said Casey Neistat. “I felt that confident.”
Who is Casey Neistat and what is he talking about?
Casey Neistat is a YouTuber, among other things. He makes wildly popular videos for his YouTube channel which, as of June 25, 2018, had 9.7 million subscribers.
And he’s talking about his experience flying the single-seat Kitty Hawk Flyer from a test facility outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. While the Flyer is certainly NOT a “flying car,” regardless of Casey’s claim, his excitement is infectious.
Kitty Hawk is a company founded and funded by Google co-founder Larry Page. From the company’s website, the Flyer is an all-electric personal aircraft for one person. Takeoff and landing is performed vertically and is powered by “10 independent lift fans.” Flight time is 12-20 minutes at speeds up to 20 mph.
And most interestingly, the company’s website claims the Flyer will be regulated under FAR Part 103. That makes it an ultralight.
“From the breathtaking freedom of flight, to a world free from traffic.”
Hyperbole aside, it would appear that Kitty Hawk has plans for the Flyer far beyond the limits of FAR Part 103. So I’m a tad confused about how they reconcile, for example, Part 103.15, “No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.”
Vast spaces of the world are already “free from traffic.” They are called rural. Conversely, those places that need a solution to traffic — and there are many — are exactly the places Part 103.15 aircraft are not permitted. Congested areas.
Anyway, what I’m most intrigued by is Casey’s training, or lack thereof. He says he spent two hours learning about the Flyer, flying a simulator, and practicing extraction procedures. Two hours!
Then, the next morning, he strapped himself in and flew the Flyer over a little lake next to Kitty Hawk’s test facility.
Let me repeat Casey’s quote, “It’s amazing. If this thing didn’t have all these limiters on it, I would’ve taken it up to 500′ and just flown back to the strip. I felt that confident.”
It is obvious the software that powers the Flyer limits how high and fast it can fly and probably the lateral limits. And from those limits…freedom of flight. From those limits…confidence. How cool is that?
Think about the possibilities for a few moments. An aircraft that can be programmed to operate within existing regulations, built-in redundancy, and scratches an itch so many people have. All packaged up into a craft with a relatively low training hurdle to jump over.
If that sounds different from the way you learned to fly, that’s because it is. And that is what is so amazing.
I started flying ultralights when I was 13. And I spent far more than two hours training. But it was just the first step to achieving multiple certificates and ratings.
And that is exactly what aviation — all segments of it — could use. Lots of people, regardless of how they get their start, learning to fly.
And Kitty Hawk’s Flyer might just be one path for such a thing.