back to article NASA flying car engineer shoots down Reg coverage

Here at the Reg we're no strangers to a bit of robust reader input. We get flamed by all sorts: dog lovers, vegans, Nigerian helicopter pioneers, members of the Parachute Regiment, Welshmen. Today, however, we have a first. An actual NASA engineer has joined this illustrious lineup to pour vitriol on our output. The trouble …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    That's what I like...

    ... the cut and thrust of true scientific debate!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    You are amazing.

  3. Richard 81
    Thumb Down


    "soon we'll all be zooming in to work above the traffic jams in our Puffins"

    That may be the kind of quote he'd like, but it'd be total bull.

    Unless flying cars use autopilot all the time when in the air, with a minimum of human input, they'll remain toys for rich businessmen with personal helipads and wallets that'll stretch to huge costs of getting a pilot's license. Put regular idiots with a driver's license at the controls of these things and be prepared to armour your roofs, walls and heads, 'cos they're going to be coming down in their thousands.

  4. Stone Fox

    a clear case of

    raging butthurt!

    Could someone spare some time to fly over there (in a personal air vehicle possibly?) and untange the poor boffins knickers for him?

  5. Douglas Fingles

    We readers DO appreciate you...


  6. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    I've seen better flames

    I suspect this chap was just having a bad day...

  7. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Hammer vs screwdriver

    Sorry Doc but you can use a hammer as a screwdriver. The claw bit makes a pretty good tin opener as well.

    Those chunky handled screwdrivers also make pretty good hammers.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      needs to get his facts right

      A hammer is also known as a manchester screwdriver; the act of hammering a screw is therefore known as manchestering.

      1. Neil 23


        Its a Black Country* Spanner, ain't it?

        [* or Birmingham, depending on which side of the Midlands you come from]

        1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

          If You Only Have...

 tool, it should be a pair of Vice Grip brand locking pliers.

        2. Martin 19

          A thought a 'Black Country spanner' was simply a convenient rock?

          A hammer is a 'patent delicate adjustment device' in Brum...

          /says Brummie skilled in the art of percussive maintenance

  8. Anonymous Coward






  9. Lionel Baden
    Thumb Up

    Hammer Screw Driver

    AHA !!!!


    Dammit i cant laugh any more i have to goto client and install ram :/

    giggle ....

    Icon Well dammnit i just hit my thumb Mwaaahaaa

    no must go .,.....



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hammer Screw Driver

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Saw the Youtube stuff

    Ames, Iowa looks brass monkey cold.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like it!

    " none have been flying cars – about a quarter have been personal air vehicles."

    And the distinction is what exactly. IIRC when pundits first talked about flying cars they weren't talking about road going vehicles that could fly, they were talking about the airborne equivalent of the road going car. Or to put it another way; "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." I would have said that another way of describing such a contrivance would be a personal air vehicle.

    Bartering semantics like this reminds me of the time that the body representing the motorcycle trade in the UK came up with the term Powered Two Wheeler or PTW to describe the supposedly more civilized end of the market. The idea being that names like motorbike, scooter and moped all had negative connotations whereas PTW didn't. There's no difference between a motorcycle and a PTW as far as the man in the street is concerned. Likewise there is no difference between a Personal Air Vehicle and a flying car.

    No that's not my car, it's my personal transport pod.

    Anyhow, flying cars or indeed personal air vehicles will not take off any time soon. If cars had not been invented until the 21st century I doubt they'd have been allowed either, just look at the health and safety implications. The air above every town and city full of personal air vehicles. Can you imagine the rush hour? The average motor vehicle accident results in some bent panels and frayed tempers. The same thing at 200 metres? Deaths.

    And look at the regulations covering remote controlled aircraft these days. Murkyside police need all sorts of permits and insurance just to fly their remote controlled surveilance chopper. And even then they can't get it very near people or buildings. Imagine the hoops you'd have to jump through to get a licence to fly your PAV and the cost of the insurance. Forget it.

  12. Melvin Meatballs


    Well my Dad always refered to a hammer as a Manchester Screwdriver.

    1. Fluffykins


      I always thought it was a French screwdriver.

      Or was that the sledgehammer?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        French hammer?

        Surely that's a cheese hammer?

        1. Mike Sallman
          Big Brother

          Spanish, I think....

          That would be a "hammer cheese sandwich", I believe...

          Big Brother icon because it sort of looks like Manuel, maybe? If you squint really hard?

      2. T-Bo


        Always called that the "Mexican Speedwrench"

  13. Graham Jordan

    It was going so well...

    Until he used the word dude.

    Dude is for students, surfers and a very selectr group of ninja turtles.

    1. RichyS


      There's a wider group of Ninja Turtles?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        DUH that's cos they're INVISBLE

  14. Dave 62


    Hey Doc, way to make yourself look like a seething lunatic.

    How many of your "advanced concepts" are now in everyday use? How many of those PAV concepts are actually in use today, because I don't have a PAV, do you?

    The majority of your youtube videos are computer generated. There is one video showing a weak fan in a lab environment with no mention of power source weight.

    If you want respect, you've got to act respectable. Now excuse me while I go work on some personal transport solutions which actually adress current real-world challenges and may actually see the light of day.

  15. Olafthemighty
    Thumb Up

    What a total amateur!

    Call that a flame? I've seen better with my eyes shut!

    GO REG!!!

    1. JimC

      > call that a flame

      To be fair to the guy the highest quality most rabid flames seem to come from those who have little to do but sit behind a keyboard all day. Whilst we might doubt the effectiveness and practicality of what our here is doing, its clear that it takes up more of his time than internet flaming does.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge


        It helps to be at least a bit unhinged to write good flames. On the other hand being unhinged doesn't help being a scientist or engineer, so we have a divergence in expertise.

  16. Brett


    it was always a Birmingham Screwdriver in our line of work .....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heard this before...

    > You made no effort to get this story straight, but just to spout your own opinions – that’s why your type of journalism is so unappreciated.

    Lewis Page writing an opinion piece? Whatever next...

  18. Somerset John
    Gates Halo


    Well, I guess it was time someone stepped up to the plate and supplanted Paul Moller as Pie, sorry, Car in the sky visionary.

  19. Jolyon Ralph

    He is right, mostly

    El Reg isn't really renowned for the quality of it's journalism. The phrase "bunch of ignorant hacks" may be a little unfair, but there you go, I've used it anyway!

    But we still love you anyway

  20. Nebulo
    Thumb Up

    Moore is less

    and the Reg is more, after that little tirade. Splendid stuff!

    As for "what gives you the right to spout this kind of opinion" ... you mean we now need someone like him to give us permission to have an opinion? Didn't realise the N.W.O. Takeover had progressed quite that far.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Poor chap does have a point

    The FoTW coverage is actually more newsworthy (marginally, but still) than the original article.

    This I determined without so much as reading the original and only skimming the flame. Still, I'm sure I'm right, for I read el reg. What are you handing me that coat for? It doesn't even look remotely like mine.

  22. Anonymous John

    He's just jealous

    of the El Reg Paris program.

  23. Matthew 3

    "What gives you the right...?"

    Surely El Reg's response should be 'Because it's our website, dickhead!'

    (or refer him to Arkell v Pressdram)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't bait the engineers.

  25. Pirate Dave


    it's not a new BOFH episode, but it's pretty good fodder for a Friday. Too bad nobody took a leisure cruise down a flight of steps, or learned first-hand about the electical conductivity of the human body. That woulda made it perfect.

    WTF is up with BOFH anyhow? Simon starts a new era then leaves it for three weeks?

    1. Linbox
      Thumb Up

      ^ this ^

      *very much*

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why can't The Reg use their expense accout to buy a $ 200 flight with one of those sophisticated, brand new, leading-edge Cessna Internal Combustion-Engine Powered Wonders ?

    They can fly hundreds of kilometers unrefuelled and land and takeoff on less than 300meters of runway. Maybe NASA will actually purchase one of those Wondercrafts ?? Then the Prof could be amazed the whole day. He would not even have to increase the energy density of Carbonhydrates by the factor of three ! Imagine that !!!!!!

    1. Daniel Evans


      If you're on about Cessna fuel, it'd be Hydrocarbons (C and H, mostly - e.g. octane), not Carbohydrates (C and some multiple of H2O - e.g. glucose).

      Although some O is required to use your Hydrocarbons for flight.

  27. Neal 5


    I think i agree with the learned Doc's views in part, anyways, definately more than the commentards here, who seem only intent on whether ist's a Manchester, Blackburn, or Brummie screwdriver, none of whom have actually commented on the most interesting aspect.

    The differences between the right handed and the left handed version of the *screwdriver*

  28. oldredlion


    It's all very well, arguing and poking fun at geeks, but - Gods dammit - I want my jet pack!

    If they spent less time reading articles and more time sorting themselves out then I could be zooming about and narrowly missing crashing into trees and buildings.

    I have long dreamed of the day of flying about with a rocket lashed to my back. (ever since I saw the old black and white Rocket Man films at the pictures - fairly sure I didn't just dream it)

  29. Stevie Silver badge


    Dear Mr Elvis Pargeter

    That told you. It's about time too.

    Please check your facts before attacking any more scientists who are actually doing science.

    You may have free rein (and my blessing) when savaging the useless bunch who do nothing but argue how their betters did it wrong and how Pluto isn't a proper planet and Lake Huron is just a bulge.

    Yours etc (Mrs)

  30. Hawkmoth

    Propeller beanies all around!

    Oh for crying out loud, Doc, you've just got to get it together. You can't rant back at English people like that, it just show us (Americans) as the unsophisticated louts they already think we are. You've got to keep your composure while you deliver some biting yet witty comeback. See the Oxford SCR scene in the movie Shadowlands for how this is done.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anybody who spends much time reading automotive workshop manuals will tell you that the correct term for a hammer is "special workshop tool #1".

  32. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I beg to differ

    "that’s why your type of journalism is so unappreciated"

    This type of journalism is exactly why we appreciate El Reg so much! Thank you.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    While I like the idea of a "flying car", can you imagine many of the lusers & hoons you find on the road today, up in the air?

    As for using batteries as the power source for an aircraft.... I hope that thing comes with a ballistic parachute as standard equipment.

    Oh yes, being a doc and a prof engineer doesn't mean anything. Been there, done that.

    Well done El Reg.

    1. Keith Oldham

      Re : Fail

      No, no ... Navigation will be under software control ... there's an app for that.

      Or FAR more worryingly .. a Redmond 'solution'.

      1. Geoffrey W

        Look to the skies

        Or even more worryingly, an open source solution written by a bunch of overweight pasty faced blokes in their bedrooms in between playing Dark Void.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      ..."Targetting Lusers.....LOCKED"

      I look forwards to experimenting with my homebuilt EMP-thrower on said hoons - funny as seeing them on the side of the freeway with their hood up is, surely it will be outdone by watching them spiral earthwards to end in a Great Ball of Fire.......

  34. AAWW


    Boy did he get that one wrong... FWIW we always used to refer to a hammer as "the electric screwdriver".

  35. John F***ing Stepp

    Don't force it, get a bigger. . .

    Ouch; reading all this I thought to check and discovered I had mislaid my left-handed Philips* bit.

    Never mind, I just found it.

    (Think I'm kidding? This puppy will take out rounded off crocodile teeth.**)

    I have found however that I no longer seem to have the dexterity to drive finishing nails with a three pound sledge; I am wimping out and sticking with the 2 pound version.

    Back on topic (or something remotely resembling same) I keep trying to start to save to buy a Martin Jetpack. *** then keep spending it all on booze and computer components. Though the Genh4 (mentioned in the article) is cool too.

    * Something like a Reed and Prince with a slightly blunter edge (Do you still use those?)

    ** If you don't have the right tool for the job, make one. I will probably never use this bit again.

    (as they do not pay me for humor around here.)


  36. Bruce Ordway


    Isn't NASA working on getting us to Mars? Is the plan to use this personal flyer ON Mars?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Nasa Plans

      "Isn't NASA working on getting us to Mars? Is the plan to use this personal flyer ON Mars?"

      While related* these ideas are not directly tied together.

      * The plans are to seem like they are doing something - while actually accomplishing nothing. Thus the "plan" for Mars and for the "flying shoe" are the same BUT different. Both are just to stay employed till retirement.

  37. Martin Usher

    Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork...

    Aircraft have this attribute thanks to the FAA (and local equivalents)....everything connected to a plane is certified, logged, recertified, relogged and generally mired in paperwork. Its understandable since the consequences of a mishap with a plane can be quite servere but it has implications for a flying car. Now there are exceptions for home-mades, one-offs and other experimental planes (but they come with restrictions on where and how you can fly them -- "By all means crash, just don't hit anything on the way down" -- but for the majority of planes the paperwork adds a significant burden to the purchase and ownership costs of a plane. (As in "You think a MoT's a hassle, wait till you have to do the same on a plane...."). So let him play, but until he fixes the certification -- and navigation -- hassles this is just a harmless pipe-dream.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jane, you ignorant slut

    I think you should force him to watch reruns of red dwarf until he manufactures us a fully working Starbug.

  39. ian 22

    Facs? We don' need no stinkin' facs.

    They're not what the intertubes are for. Only pr0n and drivel need apply.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Head Where?

    Dr Moore should just STFU and go AWAY until he gets his head out of his arse.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    I always preferred

    The alcoholic type of screwdriver.

    Seriously though... HAMMERING press coverage that is less than stellar is like a game designer complaining that his shit game got a bad review. It cannot be NAILED without making the complainer look like an absolute SPANNER. The [ALAN] KEY issue here is that this boffin has SCREWed up by e-NAILing (hmmm, I think my joke is losing altitude) El Reg.

    But good coverage...

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Hammer as screwdriver?

    you think this is a joke? I worked for a "furniture"Co in huddersfield where the "joiners" regularly used a claw hammer as such even 1/2inch ones hit it once and 1/4 turn secures it. AS for El Reg doing something like fact checking hey its a red top they dont do things like that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      There are fixings specifically designed for this. A lot faster than screws, a lot more secure than nails and a whole lot easier and tidier to remove than nails too. I think they're called hammer fixings.

      I remember an old git that lived near us calling the blokes fitting his windows all sorts of idiots for banging in screws with a hammer when they were using those fixings.

    2. Disco-Legend-Zeke
      Thumb Up

      Screw As...


      Anyone that has played with wood. No i mean in like shop class. Anyhoo, wood is the Silly Putty of construction materials. Bendy and forgiving of slow loads, yet unyielding to sudden impact.

      A screw pushes the fibers aside, creating splits. A nail breaks and crushes the fibers, essentially drilling its own pilot hole. Starting a screw with a hammer blow, yeah our shop teacher included that.

      At least they made cheap furniture out of wood back in those days. Now its all pressboard and suchlike.

  43. Bernie Cavanagh

    Dr. Moore has his claws out.

    Ewwwww, someone just had a hissy fit.

    I don't suppose Dr Moore thought about the other impracticality of his invention. If you had to fly the damned contraption for more that half an hour allowing that batteries may well triple their lifespan at some point, can you imagine the neck ache from having to look up from a prone position to see where the hell you're going.

    I can feel the need for an osteopath already.

    Alien for the NASA connection

  44. tompayne
    Thumb Down

    Prone ain't no problem

    Hang glider pilots fly prone for hours on end. Apparently it takes a bit of practice to get used to it, but it's not a problem. Hang glider flights often last several hours and the longest flights can last ten hours or more.

    Prone position is not a serious problem. Power to weight ratio, which depends primarily on energy density of your fuel source once you have to carry 80kg of human, is a serious problem. i.e. battery technology matters. Small scale model aircraft demonstrators don't really prove anything here: there are plenty of model aircraft with amazing flight behaviour. They just don't scale up to carrying a human, that's all.

  45. Justin Clements

    Balanced Story

    I thought the original story was quite balanced to be honest, and far from beating his project up, was quite forgiving.

    What I particularly dislike is that the guy hasn't even built the thing yet but is quite willing for his story to be out there.

    Look, I can make a cgi demonstration of a multi headed vibrator designed to get 5 women off at once, and release a news story about it - but it doesn't mean i've actually built it.

    So I do wish these engineers would stfu, build the wretched thing, and then show us the creation, warts and all.

  46. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    ... on getting flamed by a nasa boffin.

    gj well done

  47. Ari 1
    Paris Hilton

    puffffffffffffff (in?)

    I'm an ex-commercial pilot, and have learned a little about flying characteristics, ease of control, mechanical complexity, aerodynamics, mechanics and engineering (have done some extracurricular activities such as extra courses and taking part in building real airplanes),

    As for the arguments.. The good doctors letters and quality of arguments are not up to par for a undergraduate. I should know, I enrolled in university at an old age and any time I try that sort of evangelical bullshit my professors scold me ;)

    The mechanics and physics (including battery tech) are way out of what is truly possible now, especially considering the short battery life. Even with a doubling of power from the batteries you get limited to maybe 20 minutes of flight (take-off and landing take disproportionate amounts of energy, the climb also uses a lot more than cruise).

    These 20 minutes of flight (with magic future batteries) include the take-off and landing. Unless he can solve all stability issues and all navigation issues this wouldn't work as anything other than an interesting toy.

    Real airplanes (private flight in VFR) have to land with at least 45 minutes fuel remaining (contingency fuel), although I'm not sure that applies in USA, it does apply pretty much everywhere else.

    Commercial flights need quite a bit more.

    See any legal problems there?

    I do.

    20 (I'm being generous here) minutes total energy vs minimum of 45 minutes of fuel after landing. That equals -25 minutes of legal fuel on take-off. Which is not legal.

    Even if it were legal, this kind of margin for error, or lack thereof, is unacceptable for this kind of critical applications. Unless the battery tech improves about 20 fold (twenty fold) this will remain an obsessed engineers pipe dream.

    Paris, because she would buy his arguments.

    1. phoenix
      Thumb Up

      Well done

      That is a sane, controlled and well structured arguement unlike the Phd "dude". With that kind of language and overall english usage they must hand out Phds like smarties in the States.

      I personally could not give a stuff for personal flying vehicles as I think they are unworkable tripe with respect to the complexities of flying, not banging into each other, and take-off and landing. A great deal of people (in in the States - most) cannot even drive a car sfaely so there is no way they are getting airborne.

  48. Dave Bell

    Calls himself a scientist?

    The scientists I know, who have schemes involving incredible engineering, don't complain to journalists.

    They write songs instead,

    This has two benefits: it's a much better way of working of frustration, and when the song goes viral nobody is going to forget the journalist's mistake.

    (That bit about windmilling props to generate power: don't you realise what nasty things that will do to the lift-drag ratio? Figure in the efficiencies, and it would reduce range a lot.)

    (Yes, they do write songs: "Kantrowitz 1972 (HEL Crew's Song)". Trouble is, there are USAF Generals who would cream their pants at the thought of a laser with that output power. Any sufficiently advanced propulsion system is indistinguishable from a weapon.))

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "That bit about windmilling props to generate power: don't you realise what nasty things that will do to the lift-drag ratio? Figure in the efficiencies, and it would reduce range a lot."

      As I see it, El Reg suggested that the props be used to spin motors during descent to recharge batteries - much like the alternator in a car. If the prop blades were feathered during normal flight the drag would be reduced to minimum possible to suit the aircraft design, but then angle the blades on descent and make use of auto-rotation to give extra lift (simultaneously acting like an airbrake). This absorbed kinetic energy could easily be transferred to the batteries.

      I'm not sure what type of motors this craft is supposedly using, but in general bushed motor designs will, by their very nature, become generators if spun without an electrical supply.

  49. Doug Glass

    Goliath ....

    .... picking on the buzzard. You tell 'em dude, nothing like burning the arrogant, self indulgent, cretins to the ground with the facts.

  50. Coltek

    Bloody Experts.....

    ....."How dare you Plebs even think about mentioning my stuff ?" Bluster and Huff Huff....

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The Reg's spamline reads

    "Free whitepaper – Taking control of your data demons: Dealing with unstructured content"

    Appropriate, somehow!

  52. Ken 16

    don't piss him off

    or he'll fly across the Atlantic on this personal air vehicle and take a dump on your roof!

    Hey maybe he can sell one to Richard Branson to cross the Atlantic with too?

    (yes, yes, I read the range and endurance numbers but don't stop them trying, maybe they'll get some of the extra double good batteries with bunnies in them)

  53. Scott 19

    I'm always amazed

    At the crazy ways people can spend hard earned taxes. 'My helicopter without a decent seat is excellent and you just don't get it so shut up' and this guy gets paid for this.

  54. Jim 59

    Leave it out Reg

    I broadly sympathise with the inventor. You coverage was poor. Okay, so is his grammer, but he is not a smarty-pants professional writer like you. And his reactions, though harsh, are not much ruder that your article, and nowhere near the proper flame territory usually explored in this column. By comparison with a *real* flame, his emails are measused and mature, and almost restful. Fail.

  55. Ponytail

    Reg Readers don't get it...

    The Doc's point is that his idea, is a concept. He didn't release anything, NASA did. Conceptual Design is his job. It's what he gets paid to do, and quite frankly is an important job. Even though the concept as a whole may not work and has challenges ahead of it, pieces of it may eventually find their way to an actual flying aircraft. That's generally how technology is improved. It all starts with an idea.

    Over the many years of conceptual aircraft reporting, you guys pick THIS article to pick apart just because the creator of the concept understandably took issue with the way you reported it? Seriously?

    I've read several articles that the Reg has put out concerning Aircraft, and those articles are commonly full of errors. Whether they are due to a lack of research or just to a lack of interest, I don't know.

    On this particular article, similar to that of Sikorky's X2, it looked to be a mild regurgitation of articles posted/printed by Aviation week and Popular Science with added, albeit flawed, opinion.

  56. DrAlf

    Why is it that....

    ... I kept reading "Tailfan" as "Talifan" (which I assume is something used by the extremist end of the personal flying car brigade)?

  57. Andy Watt

    Denzil Dexter with a BFG

    It was when he used "dude"... I just saw Denzil getting angry, which seems almost impossible, but now it's stuck in my head, big black beard, white coat and all.

    You windup merchants!

    Arf arf!

  58. @dartacus

    Alternate headline

    Huffin' Puffin Boffin's unleases Frothin' Stuffin' over Nothin' should've been the headline for this 'un.



  59. JC 2

    I see his point.

    Yes, the reg coverage totally missed the point of the vehicle. It's just a shame we can't know for certain when battery pack tech will have advanced enough to make it viable.

  60. once bitten



  61. gimbal

    Touché, el Reg


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