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SORRY, I HAVE TO FLY; Strap-on copter to beat traffic jams.

IT looks like something out of a James Bond movie - a strap-on helicopter that allows you to leave traffic jams behind.

But scientists reckon they can turn their escapist vision into reality with the world's first "personal flying machine."

The pilot stands up in the device and flies it by using hand controls and the shifting of body weight.

A similar concept was developed in the seventies and donned by Sean Connery in the OO7 blockbuster Thunderball. But the Rocket Belt had the disadvantage of running out of fuel after 30 seconds.

The new version, the SoloTrek, is designed to fly at speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour with a range of 250 kilometres on one tank of petrol.

It is the brainchild of former navy pilot Mike Moshier, chief executive of Millennium Jet in Santa Clara, California.

The SoloTrek takes off and lands vertically using two fans, enclosed in protective casing, which also move the machine forward when the pilot tilts them.

It will use a four-cylinder engine so if one cyclinder fails, the others will be able to carry on to prevent a catastrophe, according to the New Scientist magazine.

Mike is also working on a mechanism that would encourage the pilot to land well before the SoloTrek runs out of fuel.

Despite failures of similar crafts in the past, the US space agency NASA are backing the project by providing technical support including computer modelling and next month will take the prototype through its paces in a wind tunnel.

Mike said SoloTrek's first customers are likely to be the armed forces, police and rescue workers because the device can take off and land in confined spaces .

He expects recreational use of the world's first personal flying machine to develop later.

Mike said: "I am not bashful about telling you I would like to have one of these things."

William Warmbrodt, chief of the aeromechanics branch at the NASA Research Center in California, says it remains to be seen if the SoloTrek will actually work.

William, who works with Mike, said: "It's been an idea since the sixties But stability, control and practicality of the design have always been beyond the here and now.

"It may turn out the SoloTrek is not feasible yet but it will help us take a step towards a more feasible system."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 24, 2000
Words:391
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