Mark Andrews on Saturday: Cars might fly, spinning a yarn and a local pioneer

Our columnist's wry look at the week's news.

Prof Stefan Klein's AirCar
Prof Stefan Klein's AirCar

In an era when technical progress seems to be about achingly dull developments in mobile phone apps or broadband speeds, we should applaud Professor Stefan Klein for giving us something to get excited about.

Klein's 'AirCar' this week successfully completed a flight between the Slovakian cities of Nitra and Bratislava. The AirCar is a small sports car with the ability to sprout wings and soar off into the sky, and who wouldn't want one? Surely most of us will have dreamt of something like that as our blood pressure soars in today's traffic jams.

The boss of South Korean car giant Hyundai reckons such vehicles will be a common sight by 2030, but I'm not convinced.

The AirCar

For a start, the AirCar requires a runway for take-off and landing, which does tend to limit its use in everyday situations. Secondly, you will probably need a pilot's licence to fly one, and you can't imagine the airline industry being too happy about them. Then there is the small issue of how our airspace will be managed when every household has two or three of the things.

The biggest obstacle of all, though is the Government's proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, which presumably means all AirCars will need to be electric. Can you imagine the chaos caused by thousands of penny-pinching drivers desperately trying to stay in the sky before they run out of juice?

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Arthur Phillips with his 'flying motorbike'

It's not an entirely new invention, either. In 1908, Market Drayton mechanic Arthur Phillips created what is probably best described as a 'flying motorbike', a Matchless motorcycle engine mounted on a pair of wings. But Phillips' invention was actually more advanced than the AirCar, having two swivelling propellers so it could take off and land vertically, without the need for a runway.

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Amanda Milling, the Conservative Party chairman

Cannock Chase MP and Conservative Party chairman Amanda Milling admits Matt Hancock's, ahem, failure to maintain social distancing guidelines may have played a role in her party's defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election. I'll say it did.

Hancock's affair bothers people far more than Palestine

While the urban sophisticates in London may dismiss a bit of extra-curricular in the office as part of modern life and a 'strictly private matter', they will probably find attitudes are not quite so liberal in the provincial Red Wall. If only the strategists realised folk in Batley and Spen were more bothered about a minister caught with his pants down than they were about Palestine.

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Have you noticed how almost any development these days is spun as some form of 'regeneration'?

Boarded-up police stations being turned into student digs are billed as 'urban living', empty shops and shabby office blocks being converted into bedsits represent 'revitalisation'.

And then there is the plan for a recently vacated clothing store in Dudley, which the developer says is all about "adding to vitality and viability in the town centre".

It's going to be a new dole office.

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Then there is the local government fad for 'rewilding'. Which basically means allowing the weeds to grow to reduce grounds-maintenance costs.

This might not be a bad thing in remote, rural areas, miles away from where anybody lives. But it's not so good when you have got dandelion clocks drifting onto your front lawn.

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