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"I identify with the weak person; this is one reason why my fictional protagonists are essentially antiheroes."
- Philip K. Dick

Winged Rocket Shuttle  
  A sort of plane that briefly reached space while traveling between points on a planet.  

Ever need to get there in a hurry? This is the way to fly.

When he weighed in [at Albuquerque] he ran into another new security wrinkle. "Got a camera in that stuff, son? the weightmaster had inquired as he passed over his bags.

"No. Why?"

"Because we'll fog your film when we fluoroscope, that's why." Apparently X-ray failed to show any bombs hidden in his underwear; his bags were handed back and he went aboard - the winged-rocket Santa Fe Trail, shuttling between the Southwest and New Chicago. Inside, he fastened his safety belts, snuggled down into the cushions, and waited.

At first the noise of the blast-off bothered him more than the pressure. But the noise dopplered away as they passed the speed of sound while the acceleration grew worse; he blacked out.

He came to as the ship went into free flight, arching in a high parabola over the plains...

[He] listened half-heartedly to the canned description coming out of the loudspeaker of the country over which they were falling. Presently, near Kansas City, the sky turned from black to purple again, the air foils took hold, and the passengers again felt weight as the rocket continued glider fashion on a long, screaming approach to New Chicago.

From Between Planets, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1951
Additional resources -

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  More Ideas and Technology from Between Planets
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
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Winged Rocket Shuttle-related news articles:
  - Rocketplane For Hawaiian Spaceport?

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