By on March 5, 2008

080124-allthreew.JPGThe flying car is The Concept That Will Not Die. And here's another version, the Milner AirCar, due to be introduced at the New York Auto Show later this month. There's absolutely no reason why cars can't fly, or why airplanes can't drive down a road. All it takes is wings and a propeller in the first case, and folding or removing those wings plus something to drive the road wheels in the second. Robert Fulton (grandson of the same-named dude who built the first practical steamship) did it quite well in the late 1940s. His cute little Fulton Airphibians flew lots and drove plenty back in those halcyon post-World War II days, when returning vets dreamed of a helicopter in every garage and Cessna was advertising its airplanes as being so simple to fly that you could "drive it up and drive it back down." But the current realities of satisfying both FAA and DOT regulations in the same vehicle on the one hand, and teaching a new generation of driver-pilots to deal with thunderstorms, crosswinds, icing, navigation and instrument flying when they can't even handle a half-inch of snow on a road on the other, give new meaning to the word insane.

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9 Comments on “Flying Car Set for New York Auto Show (2009)...”


  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    Well I think you summed it up rather well, you beat me to what was going to be a rant. People give it up. No flying cars. Will never happen.

  • avatar
    Pahaska

    Both the air and the road functions are so compromised that this is a non-starter.

    There was a time when traffic was sparse and speeds were slow enough that I felt safe in my Fiat 500, but those days are long, long gone. There is no way that this thing can meet current highway safety regulations and no way that I would leave my subdivision in one.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Scoff if you must, but I hear that a flying car is Tesla’s next project.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The dream never dies. It’s just this sort of thing that sells Popular Mechanics and Popular Science subscriptions.

    When it’s on the ground, it’s a 40hp “car.” When it’s in the air, it’s carrying an idle 40hp engine and transmission. I’m not an aeronautical engineer but I’m thinking idle weight isn’t one of those things Boeing works overtime to put in their airplanes.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Oh ye of little faith.

    There will be flying cars, but there won’t be one in every drive way. If you could sell 1,000 a year you would be able to make big bucks. Planes are BIG profit items. New regs severely reduce the process by allowing you to skip certification and sell the plane as a “light sport aircraft” until you get sales going.

    RF, you got it wrong, old boy.

    The reasons you mentioned for the flying car to fail, weather and training, are actually reasons FOR a flying car. A majority of accidents in general aviation occur because a pilot takes his plane into conditions either he or his plane are not capable of handling without undue risk.

    If you have a roadable plane, you are less likely to contract getthereitis . You won’t have to take off in less than stellar conditions. You can be a fair weather flyer. There are enough buyers in Florida alone to make this work.

    The reasons for flying cars to remain oddities are the lack of need, places to land, and the bad compromises. Who needs to go 100 to 200 miles a day from a place near an airport to a place near an airport who can go with little two or less people and little baggage? Since we rip up airports every chance developers we get, they are rarely as convenient as they ought to be.

    These roadable planes are likely more for enthusiasts than for commuters or business men, though some of those will get great benefits from one.

    OTOH, Roadable gyrocopters could actually work well with just a little organizational help from the FAA and local governments to ensure there were just a few legal places to land and take off.

    These are easier to fly, and more weather capable than roadable planes are likely to be.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Think how spectacular the crashes will be. And we’ll have a whole new category for casualties — cars falling out of the sky onto your head.

    And the insurance….

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Don’t blame Robert. I wrote it for him, since I’ve been flying since 1967.

    You’d never shoehorn a flying car into the LSA category. Too heavy, too powerful. It would require certification. And despite its parachute, the dreadful safety record of the Cirrus SRs, which I first flew as a prototype, show what happens when you get the drive-it-up/drive-it-down crowd aloft.

    Roadable gyrocopters? Do you have any fling-wing time? (I do.) Those things have been killing people for years, especially the Bensons.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    SW,

    Check out http://www.Terrafugia.com. These guys are no Mollers.

    Let’s not start the Cirrus debate. I have always maintained there was something wrong with them that no one had figured out. It may be the rudder system which they recently changed after finding that they can jam. It might be avionics. I don’t know but I have argued rather successfully that blaming the pilots is groundless. They draw from the same pool of pilot/customers as everyone else. All the A&P’s I have talked to say the plane has many more problems than the competition.

    I have yet to fly a gyro, but the latest generation are supposedly much more stable. I know the older ones have a bad record, but I am presently buying the industry line that it was inherent instability in many of the old designs that caused much of the crashes. At any rate, they require less runway, and that’s the key.

    Still, it’s not weather and training that will kill the flying car, it’s other things. Do you agree that the gyrocopters are easier to fly than fixed wing?

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    It’s not the rudder that jammed, it’s the ailerons. I flew in the very same airplane with the test pilot who was killed two weeks later when the ailerons jammed, and it was no mystery. And they draw from the same pool that the Vee-Tailed Doctor-Killer did. Even someone so pro-GA as my friend Dick Collins will tell you that.

    Nothing is as easy to fly as fixed-wing. I can teach an eight-year-old to fly an intuitive aircraft.

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