Nor will the helicopter cost much to maintain. One of the drawbacks to the greater use of small private airplanes has been hangar rental at an airport. The direct-lift machine needs no airport; there is no hangar rental because it is housed in a garage on your own grounds.
A light two-seater helicopter can make ten miles to a gallon of gasoline. Time may better this figure. And the cost of servicing will be no more, certainly—and perhaps even less—than for your automobile. A helicopter operates with uniform rhythm. Whether you are flying at three miles an hour or 140, the rotor blades are spinning at a nearly constant speed. An automobile with its frequently shifting rates of speed and greater number of parts suffers from greater wear. An automobile is serviced, theoretically at least, every thousand miles. A helicopter will get a similar servicing approximately every hundred hours, which would mean about 5000 to 9000 miles. Finally, let me add that dust, the enemy of machinery, is rarely found in the clean air of the heights.
Learning to fly a helicopter will be no more difficult than learning to drive an automobile. The time necessary will vary with the individual, but probably twelve to twenty hours of instruction will be ample for the normal person. And the actual teaching operation will be much simpler than with either the motorcar or the airplane.
Suppose, for instance, you decide to buy a two-place helicopter. The cost of teaching is included in the sales price, and you go to the dealer to be taught to operate the machine before taking delivery. He has a demonstrator in a suitable space. You both get in the cabin, and he explains the controls much as I have set them forth here. Now he presses the starter; the engine comes to life.
"Try it," he suggests. "Get the feel of it."
You speed up the rotor blades, you pull the left lift lever, but you do not rise, as you expect, to a disconcerting height; instead, a cable attached to the helicopter holds it some four feet above the ground, permitting you safely and easily to study the control movements. How simple this method of accustoming yourself to flying a helicopter! And I am certain that flying a direct-lift machine will become, in time, just as much an automatic habit as driving your motorcar is now. I envision helicopters, attached to the earth by cables, at hundreds of county fairs; thus, thousands of men, women, and children will operate the controls, safely enjoy the thrill of flying, and become air-minded.
A question certain to trouble you is this: With hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of helicopters flying in all directions at once, what about sky congestion and air traffic problems?
This problem has been foreseen and already a certain amount of planning has been done. While air traffic problems will not be at all comparable to what we now have with the motorcar, there must certainly be one-way air lanes within the limits and in the neighborhood of big centers of population. There will be "slow" and "fast" altitudes and you will choose the one that suits your temperament. Naturally, all helicopter highways will be at a safe distance from the airplane levels.