FoTW Here at the Reg we're no strangers to a bit of robust reader input. We get flamed by all sorts: dog lovers, vegans, Nigerian helicopter pioneers, members of the Parachute Regiment, Welshmen. Today, however, we have a first. An actual NASA engineer has joined this illustrious lineup to pour vitriol on our output.
The trouble started with this little effort from us here on the flying-car desk, describing the one-person "Puffin" electric VTOL tailsitter podcraft, brainchild of NASA engineer Mark Moore. The Puffin is purely CGI for the moment, but is intended to fly as a subscale unmanned demonstrator this year with funding from outside NASA.
Dr Moore didn't like our piece at all. He wrote in:
Your reporting on this subject is really terrible - have you ever considered doing any fact checking before spouting nonsense? You have so many facts wrong it is difficult to know where to begin ...
Why is it that you are willing to spout nonsense, without even so much as attempting to do an interview - it is so unfortunate to see that this is what news reporting into [sic] - uninformed babbling.
This seemed a tad harsh. We asked Dr Moore to sample a few of our factual errors for us, difficult as it would no doubt be to pick from among so many. He kindly wrote back:
You are not a professional engineer, or a reporter when you do zero fact checking. Let’s go through your article and I will report all the errors, just so that you understand what type of personal propaganda you are spouting. Essentially every paragraph has glaring errors.
For instance, Dr Moore challenged our description of him as "a NASA engineer long obsessed with flying cars”.
This is your personal opinion and not based on facts. I have developed a number of advanced concepts over that past 25 years, none have been flying cars – about a quarter have been personal air vehicles.
There are some excellent vids of a few of these projects, indeed, at Dr Moore's YouTube channel, "NASAPAV".
Going on, Dr Moore also objected to our unwarranted suggestion that he'd admitted the Puffin might not be practical without a serious improvement in current battery technology.
No where [sic] do I say this ... At most we need a 2-3 times improvement over the SOA A123 Lithium Phosphate batteries.
A tripling of specific energy in batteries is trivial, of course. It also seems that the NASA bosses who had cancelled his previous "Tailfan" project, which was to result in an actual flying aircraft, were not at NASA Langley (as we had said). In fact it was other NASA bosses at the agency's headquarters who had axed the project. Also Dr Moore says we were wrong to suggest that the Puffin's electric motors could be used to recharge its batteries while gliding down from height - these electric motors, unlike most, can't be used as generators.