Flying car (aircraft)
A flying car or roadable aircraft is an aircraft that can also travel along roads. All the working examples have required some manual or automated process of conversion between the two modes of operation.
A slightly different concept that is sometimes referred to as a "flying car", particularly in science fiction, is that of an aircraft that would be practical enough for every-day travel, but would not necessarily be drivable on the roads.
In 1926, Henry Ford displayed an experimental single-seat aeroplane that he called the "sky flivver". The project was abandoned two years later when a distance-record attempt flight crashed, killing the pilot. The Flivver was not a flying car at all, but it did get press attention at the time, exciting the public that they would have a mass-produced affordable airplane product that would be made, marketed, sold, and maintained just like an automobile. The airplane was to be as commonplace in the future as the Model T of the time.
The first flying car to actually fly was built by Waldo Waterman. Waterman was associated with Curtiss while Curtiss was pioneering naval aviator on North Island on San Diego Bay in the 1910s. On March 21, 1937, Waterman's Arrowbile first took to the air. The Arrowbile was a development of Waterman's tailless aircraft, the Whatsit. It had a wingspan of 38 feet (11 m) and a length of 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 m). On the ground and in the air it was powered by a Studebaker engine. It could fly at 112 mph (180 km/h) and drive at 56 mph (90 km/h).
In the postwar 1950s, the flying car was a common feature of science-fiction conceptions of the future, including imagined near futures such as those of the 21st century.
Although several designs (such as the Convair flying car) have flown, none have enjoyed commercial success, and those that have flown are not widely known about by the general public. The most successful example, in that several were made and one is still flying, is the 1949 Taylor Aerocar. One notable design, Henry Smolinski's Mizar, made by mating the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster with a Ford Pinto, disintegrated during test flights, killing Smolinski and the pilot.
In the 1950s, Ford Motor Company performed a serious feasibility study for a flying car product. They concluded that such a product was technically feasible, economically manufacturable, and had significant realistic markets. The markets explored included ambulance services, police and emergency services, military uses, and initially, luxury transportation. Some of these markets are now served by light helicopters. However, the flying car explored by Ford was projected to be at least fiftyfold less expensive.
When Ford approached the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about regulatory issues, the critical problem was that the (then) known forms of air traffic control were inadequate for the volume of traffic Ford proposed. At the time, air traffic control consisted of flight numbers, altitudes and headings written on little slips of paper and placed in a case. Quite possibly computerized traffic control, or some form of directional allocation by altitude could resolve the problems. Other problems would also need to be resolved in some ways, however, including intoxicated pilots or pilots that drive/fly without a license. Standards would have to be agreed upon by the international community, such as air miles being translated to nautical miles and not affecting the reading of the odometer. Furthermore, there would be serious concerns among the public in built up urban areas, that malfunctioning or incorrectly operated flying cars could crash into houses, shopping districts or pedestrian areas, severely damaging buildings or killing civilians.
Historic flying cars and roadable aircraft
|Date/Era||Design name||Type||Designer/Developer||Development stage|
|1917||Autoplane||Roadable airplane||Glenn Curtiss / Curtiss-Wright||Protoype|
|1925 - 1942||Skroback||Roadable airplane||Frank E. Skroback||Protoype|
|1935 - 1942||AC-35||Roadable airplane||Autogiro Company of America||Flying prototype|
|1935 - 1957||Arrowbile||Roadable airplane||Waldo Waterman / Watermann Arrowplane Co.||Flying prototype|
|1935 - 1938||Aircar||Roadable airplane||Joseph M. Gwinn, Jr. / Gwinn Aircar Company, Inc.||Flying prototype. Crashed|
|1936 - 1945||Autoplane||Roadable airplane||Edmund Hordern / Heston Aircraft Company||Flying prototype|
|1944||Airmaster||Roadable airplane||Herbert & Helen Boggs||Concept|
|1946||Airphibian||Roadable airplane||Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. / Continental Inc||Prototype|
|1946||Model 116 ConVairCar||Roadable airplane||Ted Hall / Convair||Flying prototype|
|1947 - 1948||Model 118 ConVairCar||Roadable airplane||Ted Hall / Convair||Flying prototype|
|1946 - 1953||Aerauto PL C||Roadable airplane||Luigi Pellarini / Carrozzeria Colli||Prototype|
|1946 - 1960's||Aerocar||Roadable airplane||Moulton Taylor / Aerocar International||Flying prototype|
|1953 - 1974||Autoplane||Roadable airplane||Leland Bryan||Flying prototype. Crashed|
|1954||BelGeddes||Roadable airplane||Norman Bel Geddes||Concept|
|1957 - 1960||VZ-7||VTOL aircraft||Curtiss-Wright||Partially flying prototype|
|1957 - 1960||VZ-6||VTOL aircraft||Chrysler||Partially flying prototype|
|1957 - 1962||VZ-8 Airgeep||VTOL aircraft||Piasecki Aircraft||Partially flying prototype|
|1958||Ford Volante||VTOL aircraft||Ford Motor Company||Concept|
|1965 - 1971||Aerocar||Roadable helicopter||Alfred Vogt / Wagner||Flying prototype|
|1971 - 1973||Mizar||Roadable airplane||Henry Smolinski / Advanced Vehicle Engineers||Crashed. Killing developer|
|1981 - 1990's||AviAuto||Roadable airplane||Harvey Miller / Aviauto Corp / Florida Tech||Concept|
|1998 - 2009||Jetpod||STOL aircraft||Michael Robert Dacre / Avcen Limited||Crashed. Killing developer|
There is an active movement in the search for a practical flying car. Several conventions are held yearly to discuss and review current flying car projects. Two notable events in the United States are the Flying Car forum held at the EAA Airventure at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) conventions held in various cities.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has shown an interest in the concept with a sixty five million dollar program called Transformer to develop a four place roadable aircraft by 2015. The vehicle is required to take off vertically, and have a 280 mile range. Terrafugia, AAI Corporation, and other Textron companies have been awarded the contract.
Flying cars fall into one of two styles; integrated (all the pieces can be carried in the vehicle), or modular (the aeronautical sections are left at the airport when the vehicle is driven).
In April 2012, the International Flying Car Association was established to be the "central resource center for information and communication between the flying car industry, news networks, governments, and those seeking further information worldwide."
Current development examples
A number of companies are developing vehicles, although few have demonstrated a full-sized vehicle capable of free flight.
- The Parajet Skycar utilises a paramotor for propulsion and a parafoil for lift. The main body consists of a modified dune buggy. It has a top speed of 80 mph (130 km/h) and a maximum range of 180 miles (290 km) in flight. On the ground it has a top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and a maximum range of 249 miles (401 km). Parajet flew and drove its prototype from London to Timbuktu in January 2009.
- The Terrafugia Transition is under development by a private company founded by MIT graduates. It is a roadable aircraft that the company describes as a "Personal Air Vehicle". The aircraft can fold its wings in 30 seconds and drive the front wheels, enabling it to operate as a traditional road vehicle and as a general aviation aeroplane. The company planned to release its Transition "Personal Air Vehicle" to customers in late 2011. An operational prototype was displayed at Oshkosh in 2008 and its first flight occurred on 2009-03-05. Owners will drive the car from their garage to an airport where they will then be able to fly within a range of 500 mi (800 km). It will carry two people plus luggage and its Rotax 912S engine operates on premium unleaded gas.
- The Super Sky Cycle is a registered motorcycle constructed by Larry Neal.
- PAL-V ONE is a hybrid of a gyrocopter with a leaning 3-wheel motorcycle. It has two seats and a 160 kW flight certified gasoline engine. It has a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph) on land and in air, and weighs 910 kg max.
- The Maverick Flying Dune Buggy was designed by the Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center as an off-road vehicle that could unfurl an advanced parachute and then travel by air over impassable terrain when roadways were no longer usable. Designed by the Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center (I-TEC) of Florida, a Christian ministry, the 1100-pound 'Maverick' vehicle is powered by a 128 hp (95 kW) engine that can also drive a five-bladed pusher propeller. It was initially conceived of in order to help minister to remote Amazon rainforest communities, but will also be marketed for visual pipeline inspection and other similar activities in desolate areas or difficult terrain.
- The Plane Driven PD-1 Roadable Glastar is a modification to the Glastar Sportsman GS-2 to make a practical roadable aircraft. The approach is novel in that it uses a mostly stock aircraft with a modified landing gear "pod" that carries the engine for road propulsion. The wings fold along the side, and the main landing gear and engine pod slide aft in driving configuration to compensate for the rearward center of gravity with the wings folded, and provide additional stability for road travel.
- Urban Aeronautics' X-Hawk is a VTOL aircraft which operates much like a tandem rotor helicopter, however it doesn't have the exposed rotors which make helicopters dangerous for personal use. This is accomplished by containing the rotors in large 'ducts' which make up most of the body of the craft; the requisite decrease in rotor size also decreases fuel efficiency. The X-Hawk is being promoted for rescue and utility functions. The first prototype flew in 2009.
- The Scaled Composites Model 367 BiPod is a developmental hybrid using joined fuselages, and twin combustion engines powering four 15 kW electric propellers.
- The Moller Skycar M400 is a prototype personal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft that some refer to as a flying car, although it cannot be driven as an automobile. However, the Skycar is a good demonstration of the technological barriers to developing the VTOL flying car. Moller International continues to develop the Skycar M400, which is powered by four pairs of in-tandem Wankel rotary engines, and is approaching the problems of satellite-navigation, incorporated in the proposed Small Aircraft Transportation System. Moller also advises that, currently, the Skycar would only be allowed to fly from airports & heliports. Moller has been developing VTOL craft since the late 1960s, but no Moller vehicle has ever achieved free flight out of ground effect. The proposed Autovolantor model has an all-electric version powered by Altairnano batteries.
Road functional, or scale models flying
- LaBiche Aerospace's LaBiche FSC-1 is a developmental prototype Flying Car and is an example of a practical flying car capable of utilizing today's automotive and aviation infrastructure to provide true "door-to-door" travel. The vehicle can be parked in any garage or parking space available for cars. The FSC-1 is the first known vehicle capable of automatic conversion from aircraft to car at the touch of a button. LaBiche has flown a 1/10 scale model, tested a ¼-scale model and is currently finishing the FSC-1 prototype for road and air testing, as of 2006. Currently, the FSC-1 requires a pilot and driver's license to operate. However, upon approval from the FAA, development is underway for utilizing a new satellite-navigation "hands free" flight system to travel from airport to airport that will eliminate the need for a pilot's license. Numerous safety systems and fail safes are also employed on the FSC-1, such as a recovery parachute. No news has been added to the website since December, 2010.
- The Haynes Aero Skyblazer is a development stage vehicle that uses a single turbofan engine to provide thrust in the air and to generate electricity to power electric motors for ground travel. In "car mode", a patented mechanism allows the wings to fold into the body of the vehicle, which is designed to fit into a single car garage and regular parking space. In "aircraft mode" the vehicle will have STOL capabilities and be able to use almost any public use airfield. It is expected to have a top speed of 400 mph (640 km/h) and a range of 830 miles (1,340 km). The skyblazer team has completed wind tunnel, stability and control testing and flown a 1/6 scale model.
- The Samson Switchblade, by Samson Motorworks is a three-wheel concept with scissor wings. First introduced at AirVenture 2009, the Switchblade is to utilize a single motorcycle engine and ducted fan to keep the propeller out of harm's way on the ground. The wheels and propeller are to be powered by the same engine, but wheel-power only to be utilized on the ground. Development is ongoing at Swift Engineering of San Clemente, California. A predicted top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) on the ground is nearly as fast as the anticipated 160 mph (260 km/h) in the air. No parts are left at the airport after conversion from aircraft to ground vehicle, as the main wing and tail assembly retracts into the vehicle body. As of 22/01/2013, the team has also completed flight testing of a 1/4 scale model and are progressing onto building a full-scale remote controlled model.
- The Aerocar 2000 is a modular design currently in development by Ed Sweeney, owner of one of Moulton Taylor's Aerocars.
- Flying car (fiction)
- Future car technologies
- Personal air vehicle
- Comparison of personal air vehicles
- Intermodal passenger transport
- Thomas Vinciguerra (April 11, 2009). "Flying Cars: An Idea Whose Time Has Never Come". New York Times.
- Popular Science: Looking back at Henry Ford's Flivver: A plane-car for the man of average means, December 2001
- id=WScDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA52&dq=Popular+Science+1932+plane&hl=en&ei=TYpLTZ3EM8L38Abb2pmzDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC4Q6AEwATge#v=onepage&q&f=true "Plane Sheds Wing To Run On Ground" Popular Science, May 1937
- "Tailless Flivver Plane Has Pusher Propeller" Popular Science,May 1934, rare photos in article
- Warwick, Graham. Leading Edge blog: DARPA's Transformer - a Humvee That Flies, AW&ST On Technology, Aviation Week online website, April 16, 2010. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
- "Terrafugia Tapped for DARPA Project". Retrieved 6 December 2010.
- "IFCA Announces Flying Cars About To Hit World Market". Various. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- "Terrafugia, Inc". Terrafugia.com. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
- "Terrafugia ready for road, flight testing". Airventure.org. 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
- Haines, Thomas B. "AOPA Online: First roadable airplane takes flight". Aopa.org. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
- Jerry Garrett (April 5, 2012), "For $279,000, Terrafugia Transition Puts the Wind Beneath Your Wings", Wheels blog (The New York Times), retrieved 2013-04-20
- Blain, Loz. "The flying motorcycle - road-registered and available now" GizMag, 17 April 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "Pictures of the day" The Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- Quick, Darren. "PAL-V flying car makes successful first test flight" GizMag, 2 April 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "PAL-V". PAL-V. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
- Logan Ward, 10 Most Brilliant Innovators of 2009: I-TEC’s Flying Dune Buggy, Popular Mechanics, November 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- Budd Davisson (October 2010). "The PD-1 Roadable Glastar". Sport Aviation.
- "Company Moves On Transformative Roadable Glasair". Retrieved 22 October 2010.
- "Urban Aeronautics". Urbanaero.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- [dead link]
- LaBiche Aerospace: The FSC-1
- "Skyblazer Flying Car – a Roadable aircraft". Haynes-aero.com. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
- "Switchblade". Samsonmotorworks.com. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
- Bayerl, Robby; Martin Berkemeier; et al: World Directory of Leisure Aviation 2011-12, page 118. WDLA UK, Lancaster UK, 2011. ISSN 1368-485X
- Grady, Mary (25 April 2009). ""Flying Motorcycle" Prototype Coming Soon, Company Says". AVweb. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- "Switchblade". Samsonmotorworks.com. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Flying automobiles (aircraft)|
- Roadable Times, pictures and descriptions of over 70 designs of flying cars and roadable aircraft past and present.
- Waterman Aerobile at the Smithsonian
- Flying cars in 25 years at BBC News Online.
- How Flying Cars Will Work at HowStuffWorks.
- X-Hawk from HowStuffWorks
- Sky Divers, slideshow by The First Post.
- Flying Cars & Airborne Oddities, slideshow by Life magazine.
- Transition Flying Car video on TED