By on April 3, 2012

“For 100 years, people have been dreaming about flying cars,” says, well, a promotion video that attempts to drum up investor interest for a flying car. Despite many attempts, we don’t see many flying cars, nether flying, nor driving. At TTAC, the story is as old as the old Farago-era layout. Fear not, flying cars will be here, real soon now, promise. One will even be at the New York Auto Show.

When Jack Baruth takes Manhattan, he will get a glance at the Terrafugia Transition. If that sounds kind of familiar to you, then that is because of said Farago-era article. The story is that old. There also was this one last year.  You can already put a deposit on it (which will be appreciated by a cash hungry company.) $279,000 gets you one in 2013. Last year, it was said the Transition would be here this year. Oh well, time moves on. Speaking of moving, at 105 mph airspeed, the Terrafugia will be slower than much cheaper cars on land, especially with Jack on the wheel. Of the cheaper car.

In the Netherlands, a flying car that looks like a high-tech cockroach just finished its  first test flights. The PAL-V is a three-wheeler  with folding rotors.  It is a gyrocopter, and it needs 540 feet of runway to get into the air.

Engadget says that PAL-V does not stand for a European television standard, but for Personal Air and Land Vehicle. A tank of regular is said to be good for 350 to 500 kilometers in the air and about 1,200 kilometers on the ground. It’s a lousy chick-magnet though: It only has one seat, and it does not recline fully. The PAL-V folks are looking for investors.

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28 Comments on “Maximum Air Speed Explained: Jack Baruth To Outrun Flying Car At NY Auto Show...”


  • avatar

    I am astonished at Terrafuga’s low empty weight, checking in at 970 lbs with two engines. LSAs in Terrafuga’s class generally boast between 600 and 700 lbs empty weight. No wonder we’re looking at the same price as Lexus LF-A for Terrafuga, it must be made of pure carbon fiber.

    • 0 avatar

      The low empty weight is impressive, more so than the useful load of 460 pounds. If you fill the tanks (23 gallons @ 6 lbs), you are down to 322 pounds so two 160 pound adults would have to pretty much fly naked. Gross take-off weight on the company’s website is 1430 pounds, which puts it above the Light Sport Aircraft allowable of 1300 pounds unless there is some kind of dispensation for its roadability.

  • avatar

    lol if you crash your flying car

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Whatever happened to the Moller (sp) flying car. It certainly looked the part but I don’t know if it ever flew untethered.

    For close to 300 grand you can get a really nice car and a really nice airplane… that’s capable of flying in weather. In fact, you can get a L-39, in pretty good shape, for a bit over $200,000.

    Personally I think the makers of the PAL-V are barking up the wrong tree. Make a gyrocopter or even a personal helicopter but forget the gyrocopter/car hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      The general opinion of Moller among pilots is that he is not now, nor ever was, likely to produce.

    • 0 avatar

      I have always found the Moller story interesting since it never quite goes away. Moller ran into problems with the SEC in 2003 for securities fraud but the company still lives. They claim to have spent more than $100 million in R&D but over the forty years (!) gestation, nothing approaching a working prototype has ever been built. Well, they did get the SkyCar to hover fifteen feet off the ground once (except that it was suspended from a crane “for insurance reasons”). From an engineering standpoint, the SkyCar performance claims look simply impossible. For a laugh, check out Moller’s website and read about their December MOU with the Chinese calling for a US$ 13 billion investment. Really.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Even non road able aircraft are generally delivered years late. The government uses the perfectly rational, yet totally out of proportion, fear of aircraft by the general population to stymie even the simplest of innovation for aircraft. Their stranglehold on the industry is KGB like, including manipulation of the press.

    I cruise about 200 mph in my Mooney, and I can get from Houston to Denver in under 5 hours. When I drove it, it took a lot more than 15 going the limit. Gumballers might beat me if I cruised 105. Jack’s chances of winning a race depend more on roads and airports and weather than his lead foot and the awareness of law enforcement.

    If working as advertised, a terrafugia owner can likely beat my Mooney on lots of trips due to the hassles of changing vehicles. Velocity isn’t everything – even when driving for fun.

    If you want to pick up chicks, get an amphibious plane. That way you can pick one that looks good in swimwear.

  • avatar
    dude500

    NAIAS… NY Auto Show… which one do you mean? I thought NAIAS was in Detroit.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    at 300k after paying all sorts of taxes, isn’t it cheaper to buy, lease, rent a plane to fly distance and rent a luxury car when arrived?

    another real unpalatable question is how safe is the flying car when some one decided to fly/ commandeer into your lane? would it fold as fast as the accordion?
    lets not even talk about plane safety when meeting the ground in a hurry.

    • 0 avatar

      That really depends on how often you do it. A trip from Albuquerque to Dallas in a rental Arrow sets one back by about $2k. However, going to New York is more like $6k. If you fly once a week, it is getting really expensive: a cost of one Terrafuga in a year, basically. Note that true ballers rent jets, not Arrows, which are far, far more expensive. The reason they’re not going to rush an buy Terrafugas is that Transition is basically worthless as a travelling airplane. It’s slow, and offers neither range nor payload necessary for travel.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Business flyers/pilots are generally alone. A plane this slow would appeal to someone with a small regional business. If you go from big city to big city flying commercial makes sense unless your hourly worth or level of responsibility requires a private flight. Then you get a turbo prop or Bizjet.

        You compare a transition to a Cessna 172 being used for business (which plenty are) and it makes more sense. The real question mark on cost is depreciation.

        For 40 years depreciation for light aircraft was predictable enough and not too bad. You lost about a third in 4 years and then it held with inflation until it got about 25 plus or started to wear out (which only happened to planes being flown in really busy fleets). With the attack on GA by the FAA, airlines, cities, NIMBY’s, and others with a vested interest in cheating individuals out of using their rights to the airspace, aircraft have recently become a rich man’s game. (when I say rich, I mean “time is way more important than money” rich, or “I will pass the cost to others rich”, not the class warfare inspired definition).

        A new Cessna used to be a better deal than a new Porsche even at twice to triple the purchase price. No more. No one knows when the government will drop the next additional cost on us.

      • 0 avatar

        If the Terrafugia is certified under LSA rules, it cannot by used for flying in instrument conditions unlike, say, a Cessna 172. This puts quite a limitation on its potential use as a business tool although I guess the argument to be made is that if the weather is bad you just drive home.

  • avatar
    George B

    In the news today we relearned that even heavy brick shaped trucks will fly with sufficient wind speed.

    http://www.nbcdfw.com/video/#!/news/local/video-override/Raw-Video–Tornado-Tosses-Trucks/145994125

  • avatar

    That thing isn’t a “flying car”. It’s a “driving Helicopter”.

    The whole flying car thing IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. Even if we colonize the moon and mars it isn’t going to happen. It’s far too dangerous and unpredictable. The only way it would ever happen is if Computers get Artificial intelligence and can operate the vehicle themselves. But, that wouldn’t be fun would it?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      For you, you’re right.

      I’m a licensed pilot, though, and have been trained on how to operate aircraft safely. I’m also a licensed driver, and know how to operate a road vehicle safely. So, a flying car would work for me.

      I’m also certified to fly seaplanes. Multi mode vehicles work, even if they come with tradeoffs and quirks.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Minor nitpic: It is not a helicopter. It is an autogyro – the main blade is not powered, but rotates on its own to provide lift. The small blade in back is the only form of propulsion while airborne.

      But yes, point taken. Were these to ever make it to mass market, people will likely crash into each other.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      It happened decades ago. The real issue isn’t your concerns, and a UAV level autopilot isn’t an issue either.

      It’s about volume and price. If enough people were likely buyers they would be all over. The reality is they aren’t all that practical, but sadly one of the reasons they aren’t practical has to do with ignorance.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Also, institutionalized fear isn’t doing general aviation any favors.

        It’s amazing how normal people get scared the instant flying is mentioned, even low/slow flying that is only harmless to the local insect population. But it’s the world I live in, and it makes it much harder and more expensive to check out a local rental for an afternoon. :-(

        It manifests itself as increased insurance rates, and the new classes of restricted airspace.

    • 0 avatar

      The “Law of Averages” would imply that if the average number of people flying these things increases, the average number of crashes and fatalities would increase too. Problem is, in a state of terrorism and mental illness, we can ill afford to have many people flying things like this. Even if every “certified pilot” had one of these, we’d have lots of accidents. An experimental plane just crashed through a rooftop yesterday for example. When aircraft crash, they do much more damage to buildings and property than a car could. You can make barriers to keep cars out of certain places. How do you protect yourself from aircraft? I haven’t even mentioned engine failures.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Bigtrucks,

        I understand why you might think that, but you should check the statistics. Believe it or not, if a terrorist targets you for death by suicidal light aircraft collision, you will still be more likely to be run over in your living room than killed by said terrorist in light airplane. (My first job after college was Air Defense for the US Army).

        Have you actually protected your house from cars and trucks? Normal construction will most likely defend you from light aircraft which generally don’t penetrate more than a few feet. Cars and trucks kill many people in their homes every year.

        Motorcycles are more dangerous to riders and much more dangerous to others than certified light aircraft. Cars and trucks are much more useful killing machines. A light aircraft has never been used in a terrorist act. There is a good reason – they suck as weapons. The only thing they excel at is getting on the news, which then gets the facts wrong, EVERY TIME. (BTW, have you ever seen the media be right about a story in your area of expertise? Remember that whenever the news gets technical).

        The bottom line is that if you realize someone is about to go all mass murderer, you would be smart to offer him a plane in trade for his land vehicle. That way, he is likely to kill no one but himself. Even if he can actually fly the thing.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    “Handles like a sports car…”

    No it would handle like a Reliant Robin with an engine perched on its roof. Driving this thing looks scarier than flying it, IMHO.

  • avatar
    charly

    the PAL-V is not a single seater but a two seater.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    FYI: Some people, most likely EVERYONE who might buy one of these, would not be doing it as part of a rational desire to save time/money commuting. They would buy it as an awesome toy. Which is would be.

  • avatar

    The flying car has always been a terrible idea, on par with the Amphicar but way more dangerous. The compromises are so extreme that you end up with rotten performance overall. The reason cars are so heavy today is due to all the safety stuff plus modern conveniences everyone likes (air con, power windows etc). They are also pretty crashworthy. Weight, on the other hand, is the Enemy in airplane design and degrades performance. Nobody has pointed out here that driving a flying car on the road means you need to give up impact zones, steel beams in the doors, airbags and the rest. If you have a minor fenderbender your vehicle is no longer airworthy until you renew your Certificate of Airworthiness, or whatever your country requires. Light aircraft make sense flying to smaller centres not well-served by airlines but you would never take your flying car to Newark Liberty, for example. New general aviation aircraft are not cheap: a new Cessna 172 is around $297,000 but it will carry four with a modicum of comfort and performance, less with a lot of baggage, and has an excellent safety record for a general aviation airplane. Flying cars will just never work out…but how about that zeppelin idea?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Sprocket,
    There is an often discussed loophole in the LSA rules for those wanting to fly IFR. (i stay out of those discussions).

    At any rate, they do indeed plan on driving under bad weather. Also, depending on your region, IFR may be necessary or a 172 won’t cut it either. Some areas require deice for a decent dispatch rate, and the low wing loading in the 172 can make it undesirable or even unsafe in many types of weather.

    It’s like the arguments we used to get here about how stupid AWD is. Yes, in the south east it’s not much value, but in the Rockies it’s priceless. For someone, somewhere, roadable makes sense. For others it’s a toy. I try to avoid Team Never.

    • 0 avatar

      Good points, Landcrusher. I agree that a 172 would be pretty marginal for IFR in some places. A real concern is the lack of speed, which prevents getting to an alternate airport, in addition to the issues of wingloading and turbulence stresses. The flying car would still need to get to an airport to land and it’s even slower than a 172. And we haven’t touched on the pilot certification questions (LSA license vs. Private Pilot). I am not entirely convinced that a roadable plane really would make much sense for anyone given its performance limitations and vulnerability in road mode. It’s a bit like aircraft with folding wings which were designed to encourage people to tow their airplanes and keep them at home but ended up mainly being parked at the local airport and just using a lot less space in hangars. Development costs of a flying car would have to be amortized over only a few sales so the price to play will be pretty high. On the other hand, I never ever imagined a Skyhawk would cost $300,000, so who knows?!

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