Ready for takeoff

This cutting-edge airplane is being built in a Kalispell garage



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Synergy is a plane, but it’s also a demonstration of a better way to build any plane. It’s the smallest aircraft John could possibly build that would showcase his breakthrough technologies. But it’s the largest that he felt comfortable building on his own in his garage. As he sees it, his design could translate all the way up to Boeing scale.

But for John, bigger isn’t necessarily better. The size of plane he’s designing harkens back to his frustration with the aviation elite. He wonders what it would be like if everybody had access to a plane like his.

Once John finishes Synergy—if he finishes—he has a second dream: He wants to put together a team to make Synergy kit aircrafts. Kit aircrafts make up 50 percent of the aircraft economy—that’s where the market is, he says—and, down the line, production could even grow to the point where a Synergy airplane is as common as a Toyota Prius. One day, maybe even soon, John envisions ordinary people flying planes from Missoula to Spokane in 25 minutes, without a worry in the world.

Of course, there are all kinds of questions that come with this vision. How do you manage a population of people navigating the skies?

“Come outside,” John says. He points up into a perfect bluebird day. A road is a two-dimensional surface, he says. The sky has layers of pathways—like a parking garage—“to the moon.”

Won’t we collide with each other?

“No,” he says. NASA research actually shows that mid-air collisions are rare.

Won’t we need more airports?

“No,” he says. There are small airports in every town that are totally unused. Plus, he adds that Synergy isn’t nearly as noisy as a standard airplane so increased air traffic won’t bother neighbors.

Flying is better than driving, he says. He recalls flying from Kalispell to the aviation center in Oshkosh, Wis., for an aeronautics conference. On the way he spotted just seven airplanes in the sky, “and those were around the busiest airspace in the universe,” he says. When he landed back in Kalispell he had to make a drive with his family to Kennewick, Wash.

“I started having heart palpitations,” he says. “I was stressed out. I thought, ‘Something is really wrong here, what’s up?’”

He realized that in the car he felt more consumed by the dangers around him—dangers that up in the plane he had forgotten.

“Here I’m driving inches by 150-miles-per-hour closing velocities, down the highway,” he says. “And we think nothing of it. That is crazy. Driving a car is insane when you have the perspective of flying.”

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