Hover over the bovver

27.05.39: PERSONCOPTERS hovered on to the market yesterday and promised to revolutionise transport in the coming decades.

The single-seat hybrid helicopter/plane was launched by its Italian designer, Leonardo Scalfaro, who has been developing the ultra-light craft since the late 1990s.

"The Personcopter is as easy to drive as a car," said Scalfaro, "but gives the exhilaration of riding a motorbike. It's ideal for popping to the shops or getting to work, allowing you to fly over the congested road systems that are the bane of our lives."

The intriguing vehicle, which has been the fancy of far-sighted sci-fi illustrators for half a century, is made from ultra-light ceramic materials. Drivers straddle the frame the way riders do a motorcycle.

The craft is flown using a steering wheel, with foot pedals to control elevation and acceleration. It is powered by a gas turbine engine, which drives the main rotor on top of the craft, propelling it at speeds of up to 300kmh. Scalfaro is now working on advanced designs for a four-seater family version. "I think this could well replace the ghastly ITPs [Individual Transport Pods] - it is faster, cheaper and a lot more fun," said Scalfaro.

However, civil aviation authorities are urging governments to ensure tight control of the use of the Personcopter, because they believe it could clog up the world's airspace. Drivers require a helicopter pilot's licence to fly the Personcopter.

A British air-traffic controller remained sceptical of the craft's impact on everyday transport. He said: "It's a great toy but completely unrealistic as a replacement for the ITPs. We simply don't have the resources to track the milli