This may be a first in Texas political history: a candidate claims to have designed and built a flying vehicle. Or, to be more precise, a flying motorcycle. Dan McQueen, a Republican running for the U.S. House in Texas’s Thirty-fifth Congressional District, which stretches from San Antonio to Austin, is touting what he’s calling the “AeroTae’ Sky-Jump flying Motorcycle.” The “P.A.A.V.” (personal autonomous aerial vehicle), he says, could be used as “a personal aircraft or sky taxi” in the airways above Texas’s clogged highways. In a brief bit of press-release doggerel, he invites the public to imagine the possibilities: “Fly a Motorcycle in the Sky, Remove the wings and Ride away, of course there are sceptics [sic], do you recall Tesla, Ford & Wright.”
I do. And honestly, the invention does sound amazing. Who wouldn’t enjoy skipping the I-35 horror show or the Katy Freeway parking lot by soaring over the suckers crawling bumper to bumper, the precious minutes of their lives ticking away as they listen to their six-hundredth true-crime podcast? You’d be blissed out behind the handlebars of a flying Harley with the birds and the wind keeping you company. When you land, you’d shed your wings, like an angel blending in with mere mortals.
But back on terra firma, we have reasons to be skeptical. First, McQueen has a history of false starts. In 2016, he was elected mayor of Corpus Christi, only to resign after serving just 37 days in office (more on that in a minute). In the years since his brief stint in office, he has announced campaigns for other elective positions five times, including a brief flirtation with running for Corpus mayor again.
Second, renderings of the flying motorcycle provided by McQueen are short on detail. They depict something like a winged pedicab, with three vertically oriented rotors. McQueen explained to me that he has been working on the AeroTae’ design for four to five years and has completed half-scale and full-scale iterations, neither of which has taken flight. The name is derived in part from “tae kwon do”; the apostrophe is a “simple accent mark to make it stand out.” By year’s end, he’s hoping to achieve liftoff of an unmanned AeroTae’. “Optimistically, it will come off the ground; it will actually take flight,” he told me.
A Navy veteran, McQueen has a background in aviation and technology, with a master’s degree in computer information systems from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. On his website, he says he has worked for Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and United Technologies. In a recent campaign video, McQueen makes a few truth-stretching claims: he says he’s “been in San Antonio ever since leaving the military back in ninety-four” despite, well, having served as Corpus Christi mayor in 2016 and early 2017 and running for office in Missouri last year. Given his experience, he promises to use his perch in Congress to “work to bring forth—obviously—flying cars.”
Skeptics of flying cars lack imagination and technological savvy, he told me. “To actually fly, commute, and land overhead on top of a building in, say, downtown San Antonio . . . that’s something that’s beyond the scope of understanding for most people,” he said. “Now, will it happen in our future? You and I both know it will. How long that will take will just depend on regulations and money and the transition of all of that. At one point in time, they probably thought we wouldn’t have a helicopter. But obviously we did.”
McQueen’s bid for office is an extreme long shot—he’s what political professionals call an “unconventional candidate” or, less charitably, a “vanity candidate.” He’s raised zero dollars and faces a ten-way Republican primary, all for the honor of facing a Democrat for this open congressional seat who will benefit from a newly gerrymandered district that Joe Biden would’ve won by 46 percentage points in 2020.
But McQueen has plenty of experience on the campaign trail. His month-long tenure as Corpus mayor was marked by odd behavior and revelations that he had misrepresented his educational credentials and failed to disclose that he had put his romantic partner on the city payroll. As criticism mounted, he took to Facebook on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to denounce his critics and the media: “Dr. King and I both are graduates of Boston University, and I find my-self in a city named, “The Body of Christ” (IRONIC). However, in the past 35 Days, I have been attacked by council as being Sexist, Racist, and continue to fight attacks from Media and the public. I just don’t see the VALUE in this fight for 600 more. I had such HOPE for our city. God Bless Corpus Christi!” Two days later, he announced his resignation on Facebook. Corpus was left to wonder how McQueen had gotten elected in the first place.
McQueen wasn’t exactly contrite. He self-published a book a few months later called 37 Day Mayor: Truth – FAKE-NEWS – America’s Future (Volume 1), placing blame for his short tenure on a web of conspirators in local media and government. The cover depicts McQueen in a classic casual-politician pose—his sleeves rolled up, jacket tossed over one shoulder, with Corpus’s skyline in the background. One detail can be easy to miss: an AeroTae’-resembling object hovers in the sky, partially obscured by “FAKE-NEWS.”
In 2017, he launched a long-shot bid against U.S. senator Ted Cruz, notable mostly for McQueen’s unusual fundraising tactics. As reported by the Texas Tribune in October 2017, he invited the public to enter the “McQueen MotorCycle Café Essay & Rib Contest,” whose prize was a commercial building in Corpus. Participants had to pay a $250 entrance fee, write a short essay on job creation, and submit a recipe for a half rack of beef ribs. McQueen would use the entrance fees to help fund his campaign. (McQueen said there weren’t enough entrants to go through with the contest; he remains the owner of the building.) A karate instructor who self-published a book in August called Master Grampy: Black Belt Adventure – TRY, he also launched a statewide “Board Breaks” tour during which he would appear in various dojos to hand-chop wooden boards in order to symbolically “break addiction.” (The effort continues; this week McQueen announced two Board Breaks in February, in San Antonio and Austin.)
In 2019, McQueen briefly flirted with a run against Congressman Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat. In May 2021, McQueen popped up in Missouri, where he filed paperwork to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. Had McQueen left his stomping grounds in South Texas? The Kansas City Star noted that his “filing used two addresses, one for a P.O. Box in Jefferson City [Missouri] and another for a banquet hall in Corpus Christi owned by McQueen.”
In a busy primary season, candidates sometimes struggle to distinguish themselves. The challenge can be particularly daunting if you have raised no money in a crowded race. But a flying car? You’ve got our attention now, Mr. McQueen.