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Death by Invention: 5 Inventors who Died by Their Own Work

Michael Dacre
Michael Dacre, inventor of the Jetpod, died when the flying taxi prototype crashed.
Michael Dacre, inventor of the Jetpod, died when the flying taxi prototype crashed.
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We've all seen them in movies: small rocket-like cars that ferry passengers through the air in the cities of the future. But, had it gone according to plan for an inventor named Michael Dacre, those flights of the future might already have existed today.

Dacre, born in the U.K. in 1956, joined the British army in 1975, eventually becoming a pilot who flew planes like the Gazelle, Lynx and Beaver in tours at home and abroad in Germany, the Falkland Islands and Canada. After leaving the service, he started his own flight crewing service and later formed a company known as Avcen Ltd.

It is with Avcen that he developed a craft he called the Jetpod. The Jetpod looked like a small airplane, ran quietly and was designed to need only 125 meters (410.1 feet) to take off and 300 meters (984.3 feet) to land, a concept he called VQSTOL (very quiet short take-off and landing). With such a craft, Dacre contended, runways could be built inside urban areas, making transport from airports to city centers much quicker, thereby eliminating congested highways. For example, it was predicted that the plane (which had a maximum speed of 350 mph or 563.3 km/h) could make it from Heathrow airport in the U.K. to central London in about four minutes and cost approximately 50 GBP.

Avcen had planned to build three different models of the Jetpod. The T-100 was a commuter plane, with ultra-light seats, designed to do as many as 50 trips per day from airports to center cities. The M-300 was a heavier plane that would be used in military applications to move battlefield casualties to nearby medical facilities. The E-400 was also a medical transport vehicle, but the idea was that it would be used for civilian applications and could land on a cleared road near a hospital.

Unfortunately, Dacre never got to see these planes reach production. On Aug. 16, 2009, Dacre took an eight-seater Jetpod prototype to a take-off strip north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a test flight. After failing to get airborne three times, on the fourth attempt the craft shot vertically into the sky before falling back to Earth and killing the man who had created it -- along with his plans for a "flying taxi."