In the first programme, James seeks a better and bolder way of getting from A to B and begins his travels in the frozen wastes of Russia to take the controls of a means of transport kept secret from the public until the 1990s – the ekranoplan. Capable of skimming above sea and ice at incredibly high speeds, this flying machine originally baffled American intelligence agencies.
Continuing his travels, James heads to the US in a bid to pilot the world’s only surviving flying car for its first flight in four years. The legendary Aerocar of the 1950s was once a darling of the skies, and with Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner as previous passengers, it proves that a flying car can be the ultimate babe magnet.
Searching for the world’s smallest helicopter James travels to Japan, where he finds a machine which is held aloft by four tiny engines. With each engine weighing the same as a large chicken – but with the power of ten horses – James watches in amazement as it takes off.
Even turning himself into a human rocket in his quest, James straps on a rocket-pack in a suburban garden in Sussex. The machine which eats up fuel faster than a jumbo jet has been built by commercial pilot Stuart Ross, a man who likes flying so much he wants to do it without the aeroplane.
And finally, in California, James encounters his ultimate dream – the latest in a long line of inventions by Dr Moller, a man who has spent 40 years pursuing a flying car capable of vertical take off. Its controls are so simple that anyone can fly it, but is the world ready for a flying car?
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First broadcast: Sunday 5 Oct 2008 on BBC TWO