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Washington lawmaker envisions future with flying cars

AeroMobil displays its latest flying car prototype, in Monaco in April 2017. The company planned to accept first preorders in late 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

Roads? Where Washington is going, we don’t need roads, according to one elected official.

“That was the initial thought about the bill; small airports around the state that are regional, could be connected, could be revived with new technology,” said state Representative Vandana Slatter of Bellevue. “At the moment our batteries are advanced, and science is advanced enough to maybe have a sweet spot … that would allow for maybe a 12 seat (electric) aircraft go about 700 miles.”

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It’s hard not to imagine a future with long-awaited flying cars as Representative Slatter tells KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross about House Bill 2295. It recently passed the House and is now working its way through the state Senate.

Slatter wouldn’t use the term “flying cars.” Though the bill has striking similarities to the goals of companies like Uber that are working to create a system of electrified air travel via a network of small airports in California. That’s what Slatter proposes — revive Washington’s smaller airports to create an infrastructure for short-distance air travel. That way, when I-5 is jammed, just hop into a small aircraft and fly to your destination.

The road to flying cars

But to get to that future, Washington aims to create a foundation for electric or hybrid aircraft through HB 2295 and its Senate companion. With these policies, lawmakers are hoping the region’s tech companies and entrepreneurs are up to the task. The bill deals with traditional airplanes. But Representative Slatter admits it leaves the door open for new, yet-to-be-invented forms of travel.

“This bill is seeking to create goals for us to develop electric and electric-hybrid aircraft,” Slatter said. “These are planes that would land on a runway and take off from a runway. But it could include types of flight we cannot currently anticipate.”

“If you could have an aircraft that is smaller, goes shorter distances … that’s cheaper, that doesn’t use fuel, is quieter,” she said. “Might that then revive something we used to have a long time ago?”

What America once had before the interstates, Slatter said, was a network of small airports that served this purpose. To kick things off, the Washington State Department of Transportation will form a workgroup.

“To get experts together to ask these questions … I truly believe in American ingenuity and entrepreneurship,” Slatter said. “I believe that Washington state is an aviation leader. I also believe that if we can be a leader in how to think about this and recommend goals, we can set the stage for answering these questions.”

Questions like: How much would tabs be for a personal gyrocopter?

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