​Flashback: The flying car flight of 1988

Three years after Marty McFly first got into his DeLorean and gunned it to 88 miles per hour, an inventor was confident he too no longer needed roads to drive. The year was 1988 and Paul Moller was about to test his latest invention: a flying car. CBS News correspondent John Blackstone was there to cover the event for the "CBS Evening News."

Moller's vision of a flying car was the stuff of dreams then as it is now.

"It's one of those American dreams that just won't go away," reported Blackstone. "Behind every garage door, not a car, but a personal flying machine. It's a dream more widely pursued than you might imagine."

The Philadelphia Auto Show that year featured a "flying saucer," leading Blackstone to quip: "If Detroit thinks it has a problem with Japanese imports, wait till some of these come on the market."

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A flying saucer at the 1988 Philadelphia Auto Show
CBS News

Nearly three decades later and flying cars are not on the market, though major advances have been made. In 1998, the desire to succeed was coming from California's Silicon Valley where many believed a flying car was possible.

"This aircraft takes off from wherever you happen to be, flies directly to where you want to go, and lands there," explained Dave Millman with Moshier Technologies.

The rush to build a functioning flying car even made the Pentagon's radar, reported Blackstone. Colonel Harry Blot with the Defense Department said the flexibility to land and take-off at areas other than conventional airports was of interest to him. Blot went one step further and called flying cars, "the future."

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A prototype of a flying car, 1988
CBS News

But as we've all come to know, the road to this future is long and winding, which is where Paul Moller and his insatiable drive comes in.

"I've always had this desire to build this vehicle and make it work and owning one, it's taken me a bit longer than I planned," said Paul Moller to Blackstone in 1988.

Moller first tried a flying car in 1967 and he did get into the air, though it was more a hop than a take-off. Problems led to design changes but Moller kept building flying saucers. He saw success in 1987 when he piloted the vehicle via remote control with a dummy inside. Now the time came for him to ride in the driver's seat and soar.

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Paul Moller's flying car goes up for a test flight with a dummy inside the cockpit, 1988
CBS News

But just as a final test with the saucer tethered to a crane was concluding, experts spotted a problem with engine number eight. The result forced Moller to scrap his manned flight.

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Paul Moller
CBS News

"I'm disappointed that we didn't have a man in it," said Moller. "I'm disappointed I didn't have a chance to fly in it today."

Moller didn't give up. To this day he continues to push forward with his goal of creating flying cars. His latest progress can be seen on his company's website, Moller International.