75th Anniversary: Back to the age of flying cars – sort of

Generations of futurists have promised us the concept of the “flying car” for decades, all to no avail. But in 1954, when the car was king, we came pretty close, at the dawn of the Jet Age. It’s only natural that the air cargo industry would merge aviation with the ultimate symbol of American independence.

In our archive of Air Transportation issues – the magazine that later became Air Cargo World – this photo sequence at left, from April 1954, caught our eye. The article, called “Latin American Showrooms,” depicts ground crews driving what appears to be a 1954 Studebaker Starliner Coupe up a ramp and carefully edging it into the confines of C-46 freighter. The aircraft was operated by Miami-based charter carrier Aerovias Sud Americana (ASA), which was flying the cars to “Havana, Bogota and a number of points in Central America.”

The article showed that even heavy commodities, like finished automobiles, could be shipped by air as competitively as ocean-going modes. Besides, sending cars by air allowed foreign dealers “to display samples on their floors at the same time that they appear in showrooms in the States.”

Alas, like so many promises of the 1950s, the flying of manufactured cars never really took off. But with car makers building factories all over the world today, the need to ship spare parts for recalls almost overnight can make or break and assembly has become a charter-airline staple. And we can still hope for the day when real “flying cars” become a reality

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