My Favorite Personal Mobility Mode
I am sometimes asked what my favorite mode of transportation is. Having worked many years with micromobility vehicles, I do like Segways and self-balancing scooters, and I also think maglev trains and even the Hyperloop concept are very cool. But my favorite mode of travel is master inventor Dean Kamen’s single-pilot personal jet. He just jumps in it and flies at over 500 mph anywhere he wants!
I know small jets are not an environmental solution, but if I am dreaming, the personal jet is truly an ultimate form of personal mobility.
I worked with Segway and Dean back in 2003-04 as a consultant. I was based in Boulder, Colorado, but visited Segway HQ in Manchester, New Hampshire, for a week each month. I got to know Dean, and even stayed at his crazy-amazing house a few nights. It was just up the hill from the Segway and his DEKA offices. It’s a 35,000-ft2 home, with a garage built for two of his helicopters.*
One day I was in Dean’s office with a woman who led Segway PR at the time. They were discussing a need to travel to New York City later that afternoon for a key meeting. They asked if I would like to come along, and that I could return to Colorado from NYC. I immediately said yes; I was really excited to be able to fly with Dean in his jet.
The plan was to meet Dean at the Manchester airport in an hour. I went by car with the PR lead. As she and I pulled up to Dean’s hangar, there was Dean, operating a rudimentary little Briggs and Stratton tug, and this noisy little thing was allowing him to pull his Beechcraft Premier 1, a $7-million carbon fiber personal jet, out of the hangar. It was a sight to see.
As we went aboard, Dean offered the co-pilot seat to me so I could sit next to him on our flight to NYC. I was stoked!
I had flown in a handful of small propeller planes in my life, and sometimes in a front seat, but flying in the front seat of a jet is entirely a different, and better, experience.
As we began rolling down the runway to takeoff, Dean’s hand was on a lever centrally mounted on the dashboard. He started to lift the lever, and as he did, up we went. Within moments, we were powering up into a vivid blue sky, and began “puncturing” through the few clouds in the sky. I felt as if I was riding inside a glass Christmas tree ornament or something.
It was so smooth and such a beautiful motion. I was immediately in love with this jet.
While many executives own (or lease) private jets, I feel Dean’s ability to solo-fly his jet is a very different and awesome capability. I don’t know of anyone else on earth with such an amazing form of personal mobility. Dean could fly to Chicago or Florida in just a few hours, and go where he wants, when he wants.
We arrived in NYC that day and took a car into Manhattan. Three Segways had been stored on Dean’s jet. We were soon riding about NYC in the Wall Street area on Segways before Dean had to attend his meeting. It was a surreal experience for sure.
Later in 2004, after I no longer was supporting Segway, I asked Dean to fly to Colorado to participate in a mobility conference I was producing. As I was talking to him over the phone, he immediately began looking at which airport in the area had a long enough runway for his plane. I found that interesting.
I wrote Dean recently to ask him about his Premier jet. He said he now owns a Phenom 300 jet, which he said is the best single-pilot plane in the sky. He said at 45,000 feet, with a tailwind, he can now go coast to coast non-stop. (I checked the plane out online: it costs some $9-million.) He said I would need to take a ride in his new jet, which I am looking forward to immensely.
*Editor’s note: Among Kamen’s remarkable list of accomplishments, he is the co-founder of FIRST: FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology; firstinspires.org), which is dedicated to getting young people interested and involved in science, technology and engineering. Arguably Kamen’s success can stand as a testament to the fact that people who aren’t pop stars or professional athletes can do well. Very well.
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