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Friday, January 16, 2009

Clinton Township man dreams of creating flying machine

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News

CLINTON TOWNSHIP -- The Macomb County moon man stood next to his forlorn flying saucer, which sat perched on milk crates in a weedy patch along Interstate 94. He railed against corporate conspirators and misinformed scientists.

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According to the moon man, a nefarious cabal has blocked him from laying his hands on the necessary money to complete his perpetual flying machine -- a machine he says, that could reach Mars in a mere two weeks.

"Bankers promise calls they never return," said Alfie Carrington, who when not working in his laboratory makes ends meet as a part-time construction worker. "The governor's office told my mother no. And these so called scientific experts who have never seen it, say it won't work."

And so the earthbound saucer sits north of 14 Mile, smothered in a blanket of bird-dung and snow.

"I say 'Is saucer aircraft technology in somebody's college?' " he asked. "There's no MIT for this. There's no Berkeley for this. They say 'Where did you get your saucer information from.' Nowhere. Because the saucer information is in here."

Alfie Carrington of Clinton Township says he's been working for 30 years developing his flying saucer, which sits in a lot north of 14 Mile. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)

And with that, he knowingly tapped his temple with his forefinger.

Carrington, 59, is one of those Michiganians with an obscure, beautiful mind who, in the dark recesses of his pole barn, tinkers with gadgetry or studies science or listens to Mahler into the late evening. But once this man leaves the orbit of his own private universe, he appears to the general public as a little more than a nut job, a loon, a man likely to find his end at the bottom of an unmarked grave.

Carrington said he accepts disdain as the price of genius. And although he has no formal scientific training, Carrington does hold an associate's degree in psychology.

"People think I'm nuts," he said.

He claims he's spent 30 years and $60,000 of his own money building the flying saucer, which he insists will replace the automobile and render the combustion engine and gasoline irrelevant.

Unfortunately, Carrington ran out of money before he could build his motor and hasn't been invited to this year's North American International Auto Show.

To make a tall tale short, Carrington fell on hard times. His mother's feet swelled with diabetes, and she moved into his home. Construction jobs dried up. The saucer prototype fell into disrepair and was evicted from its hangar.

Carrington grew forlorn and found solace in yoga, fried chicken and cold beer.

But now, Carrington believes his saucer may indeed take flight, what with Washington prepared to hand-out $1.5 trillion in stimulus and bailout money.

"Everybody else has got their hand out," said Carrington. "Wall Street, Chrysler, even Larry Flynt. I'm the only one that's got a plan. All I need is about $250,000. We could have it up and flying in nine months."

Carrington, who holds an associate's degree in psychology and works part-time in construction, realizes his ideas may sound a bit far-fetched.

Inspired by "Star Trek" episodes and science fiction novelist H.G. Wells, the simplest explanation of Carrington's flying saucer goes something like this: Measuring 14-feet in diameter and constructed of carbon fiber, the craft would have two discs that rotate in opposite directions. The discs would be fitted with electro-magnetic technology and would connect to a coil mounted in the interior of the discs, which in turn would send electrical power to batteries.

This, according to Carrington, would create a continuous, perpetual power source. Steering would come by benefit of air ducts running through the craft that could be opened or closed for desired propulsional direction.

"This is the answer to Detroit's problems," Carrington said. "Think of it as something like a flying car. It would have space capabilities too, but when I mention that, people treat me like I'm crazy."

Listen to the man for 10 minutes and you too may start to become convinced. His pitch is so convincing in fact, that NASA warmly received him at a symposium 15 years ago only to grow cold when they realized he knew nothing about computers.

Richard E. Wirz is an assistant professor at UCLA and formerly a senior engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who specializes in spacecraft integration and developed the world's first miniature noble gas ion thruster. He says Carrington's flyer-saucer has about as much chance of getting airborne as a dead elephant.

"Using electro-magnetic energy to power his craft is like saying I'm using tires to power my car," says Wirz.

"The power has to come from somewhere. He's talking about using batteries, but the size of batteries he needs would be so large, he wouldn't be able to get the craft off the ground. Did you see the 'Iron Man' movie? If he had a little reactor like that, then that might do the trick."

But Wirz said the Moon Man should be supported not scorned.

"Don't discourage the guy," the professor said.

"One of his 100 ideas might actually be helpful. What would you have him do? Sit around watching reruns of 'Seinfeld?' We'd be better off with more men like him."

You can reach Charlie LeDuff at (313) 222-2071 or