How far are the flying cars?
Not content with vehicles that cling to the road and roll on the tarmac, a race of courageous pioneers sought to give cars fenders that will lift them elegantly into the air and above traffic jams.
Barely a year goes by without a daring new flying car adventure being announced, with production versions inevitably “in just five years”. But are flying cars a feasible and imminent reality? Or just a flight of fantasy?
The fantastic flying cars have proven to be an intoxicating inspiration for those who pursue the real thing.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, created by James Bond author Ian Fleming, was particularly popular. Even 007 himself was foiled by a flying car, as assassin Scaramanga’s escape route in the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun.
And in the sci-fi movie The Fifth Element, Bruce Willis drives a flying taxi through numerous flying car lanes. Without forgetting the cartoon Jetsons and the Supercar of the 60s of the television puppeteer Gerry Anderson.
If you think flying cars are a modern invention, think again. Even the pioneer of the auto industry, Henry Ford, was struck when he wrote in 1940: âMark my word. A combination of airplane and automobile arrives. You can smile. But it will come.
The first generally recognized flying car was the Curtiss Autoplane, invented by aviation and motorcycle pioneer Glenn Curtiss in 1917. It was a triplane that used the wings of a Curtiss Model L trainer with an aluminum body that looked like a Ford Model T.
It had three seats in a closed cabin with the pilot or driver seated in front. Presented at the PanAmerican AeronauticalExposition in New York in February 1917, it only managed to make a few small leaps before the United States entered World War I, which ended its development in April.
Waldo Waterman’s 38-foot-span Arrowbile took flight on March 21, 1937, propelled on the ground and through the air by a Studebaker engine, allowing it to fly at 112 mph and cruising at 56 mph.
In 1949, inventor Moulton ‘Molt’ Taylor had designed and built the Taylor Aerocar in Longview, Washington. On the road, it towed wings folded behind. Although only six were made, it is still considered one of the first practical flying cars.
The last remaining yellow and green model is kept at the Kissimmee Air Museum in Kissimmee, Florida. One of them even flew Raul Castro – Fidel’s brother and the former Cuban president – through Cuba. It was also used from 1961 to 1963 to monitor traffic to a radio station in Portland, Oregon.
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ABOVE AND BEYOND
Other flying cars followed, although most failed to take off commercially. For decades, Moller International has flagged its oft-reported plans for its Skycar flying car. However, to date, none have flown in free flight and not captive as required by the authorities.
But more recently, there has been a wave of announcements. The Terrafugia Transition flying car received the green light for take-off from the United States Federal Aviation Authority this year.
Powered by a 100 hp fuel injected engine, the two-seater with a wingspan of 27 feet can fly up to 100 mph at an altitude of up to 10,000 feet, with a range of approximately 400 miles. But don’t expect much of a change from Â£ 300,000.
In July of this year, the Klein Vision AirCar took off on a 60-mile intercity flight lasting 35 minutes between Nitra and Bratislava airports in Slovakia.
Imagined by Professor Stefan Klein, his two-seater flying car with a fixed propeller and retractable folding wings transforms in just two minutes and 15 seconds from a sports car into an airplane with a range of 620 miles, a top speed of 120 mph and a cruising altitude of 8,200 feet.
Scheduled for arrival in 2023, the Slovakia-based flying car AeroMobil has a solid pedigree of European auto industry talent behind it, including former McLaren supercar CEO Antony Sheriff.
With over 10,000 miles of real and simulated flight tests and a wingspan of 30 feet, it has a range of 320 miles (top speed 100 mph) and a flight range of 420 miles (top speed 160 mph).
The giant Hyundai Motor Group has stepped up the creation of flying taxis as part of its broader mobility ambitions. The Korean automaker has created an Urban Air Mobility division – renamed Supernal – which in January 2020, in partnership with Uber, unveiled a prototype electric propulsion vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) flying car.
Since then, Hyundai has announced plans for a refined version of a flying car using electric and fuel cell technology that it says will be in commercial service by 2028.
In the new year, Hyundai plans to demonstrate in Coventry the world’s first urban airport – dubbed Air One – which will be one of 65 such sites in the UK, mainland Europe, the US and the United States. the Asia-Pacific region to accommodate flying cars.
The idea is for passengers to use a single application – such as “carpooling” platforms – to plan trips which could include taking a car or train from home to a flying taxi “vertiport”, flying through the city and take an electric scooter for the last mile
Jaiwon Shin, CEO of Supernal and Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, who worked for NASA for 30 years, said, âBy adding a new dimension to mobility, we are on a mission to transform the way people and society. move, connect and live. ‘
On a festive note, I have in the past commissioned top designers from some of the world’s biggest automakers to come up with a 21st century solution for someone who could really use a flying car – given the sheer amount of packages it takes. he must deliver overnight.
I’ve always been amazed at the ingenuity they deployed to replace Santa’s sleigh – from a sleek futuristic Ford to the Vauxhall ‘Clausa’ and a Bentley ‘Flying B’ – like Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen and the other reindeer are allowed to retire smoothly.
So, as Santa Claus flies away, a merry Christmas to all.