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What Hollywood got right (and wrong) about the future of aviation


We are officially living in the future. From flying cars to hoverboards and time travel, Hollywood’s predictions about the future – in particular the future of aviation and the artificial intelligence (AI) that fuels it – have been bold. Join us to explore what Hollywood got right and wrong about the future of air travel.

When Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) flash-forward to the year 2015 in Back to the Future Part II (1989), they find themselves in a world where clothes are self-drying, lawyers have been eradicated and flying DeLoreans and gravity-defying hoverboards are the normal mode of transport. Since the Back to the Future franchise explored the future of air travel, a range of sci-fi movies have made further bold predictions. Here we look at three of Hollywood’s technological prophecies, some of which have (mostly) come to fruition and others of which failed to separate fact from science fiction.

Flying cars

Flying cars are a staple form of air travel in Hollywood sci-fi, from the flying DeLoreans of Back to the Future II to Luke Skywalker's SoroSuub X-34 landspeeder in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) and the "Spinners" flying police cars in Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2015) – which are much like the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts we see in reality today. As far as the big screen is concerned, the flying car is the pinnacle of future air travel.

While many audiences may be disappointed that our favourite four-wheeled automobiles aren’t advanced enough to become airborne after reaching optimal speeds, as seen in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Back to the Future, Airbus’s Urban Air Mobility division is close to perfecting a autonomous flying taxi, Vahana, which is scheduled for testing later this year before being rolled out in 2021.

It’s doubtful whether the widespread adoption of flying car travel is feasible, or even practical – as billionaire futurist and owner of SpaceX Elon Musk pointed out in an interview with TED, flying cars might not be a preferable alternative to road travel. But while in the future we may not all own a flying car as films like The Fifth Element would have us believe, flying taxis are soon to become the future of aviation, which means Hollywood was technically correct on this one.

Time travel

Time travel concept
Time travel concept

Time travel is one of the most popular science fiction tropes, but in reality this technology has dumbfounded even the world’s biggest aviation and space aircraft manufacturers like NASA. In a bid to crack open and explore this enigma, Hollywood has long used time travel to highlight mankind's ultimate conquering of traveling through air and space. Films like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), The Terminator (1984), Groundhog Day (1993), The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) and Looper (2012) all predicted time-travel as a staple technology of the near future, but aside from scientists managing to send light particles back in time a few years ago, teleportation and time travel don't exist on any kind of practical scale – for the time being, anyway. Unfortunately, this is one air travel prediction that Hollywood got wrong.

Hoverboards

Hoverboard from Back To The Future
Hoverboard from Back To The Future

Hoverboards were first used in Back to the Future II when Michael J Fox’s character, Marty McFly, travels on one before saving the day. While the movie wasn’t wrong with its timing, the hoverboards used today are a far cry from those of science fiction. Rather than gravity-defying boards that whisk the rider around at top speed, for now we have to make do with two-wheeled weight-controlled electric hoverboards, which are banned in most public spaces. However, there’s been no shortage of hoaxes fueled by the hoverboard mania that followed in the wake of the Back to the Future movies, from the Lexus hoverboard, announced in 2015, to the viral video of the HUVr skateboard, endorsed by global skateboarding icon Tony Hawk. So, while Hollywood got this prediction partly correct, it seems like we won’t be floating away on a hoverboard tour any time soon.

While the future might not quite live up to the expectations set by decades of Hollywood films, you can still travel in today’s most innovative and exclusive aircraft when you charter a private jet with Air Charter Service.

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