Where's My Damn Flying Car?: An Update

Flying cars, available in 2009. Terrafugia, Inc., an MIT-born firm, has released a flight simulator for their model, the Transition. They're calling it a "roadable aircraft" because of niggling little details like the fact that you need a pilot's license to operate the vehicle. But it's a flying car. You can drive it to the airport, unfold the wings, and take off.

You can try the simulator, see a 1/5 scale model, and put down your deposit of $7,400 (5 percent of the $148,000 purchase price) now. It's not the Jetsons yet, and it can't take off from the back yard or land at the office, which is the real goal. But the price is (relatively speaking) reasonable, thanks to cheaper, lighter, stronger construction materials and new engine technologies. It's a start, anyway.

Said Anna Mracek, COO of Terrafugia:

"A few of the older gentlemen I talked to told me that they had been waiting for something like this their whole lives and were so excited that we were making it real while they were still able to fly it."

Amen, brothers.

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  • ||

    "A few of the older gentlemen I talked to told me that they had been waiting for something like this their whole lives and were so excited that we were making it real while they were still able to fly it."


    As if old men driving regular cars weren't terrifying enough.

  • ||

    When I was a kid (1980), my dad told me we would have flying cars by 2000. When the late 90's rolled around, it became clear that I had one more wrong prediction to throw on the pile of things my dad knew nothing about. I guess he wasn't as far off as it once appeared. Still, this doesn't come close to what I had in mind as a kid, so he's still an idiot.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    A flying car with wings is like no flying car at all. That's just a plane that's too small. Give me an antigrav hovercar or give me a 1979 Honda Accord.

  • ||

    If only I had known more about birth control.

  • ||

    Does anyone know what happened with the Skycar? What that the real deal or was that guy just a crook?

  • wingnutx||

    I'd be suprised if an open propeller was allowed on most roads.

    Might need a squirrel-cage around that.

  • ||

    Since I am 6'4" I'm too smart to fall for the air-car BS AGAIN.

    I'm holding out for a jet pack anyway : )

  • ||

    It'll never sell. Not nearly enough cup holders.

  • ||

    I'm only interested if it makes Jetsons noises.

  • ||

    They're using X-Plane for their sim. Smart cookies, as it's probably the best and more accurate sim of its kind. Real fun to play around with.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    John, as of right now Moller International is still in business. According to their site they've got a shareholders meeting coming up next month, and their site also plugs a favorable writeup in the WSJ from April.

  • Ron Hardin||

    The collision insurance on that would be pretty high.

    The breakthrough of course is that it's a plane you can drive, not that it's a car you can fly.

    You don't even have to go to the airport. Just drive where you want. Total freedom at last, for sport pilots.

  • ||

    I think a little backpack jet or personal helicopter would do me just fine. VTOL is the way to go, if you're going to fullfil most peoples' expectations of the Flying Car.

  • ||

    This will look great parked in the garage right next to my Amphicar!

  • ||

    I agree that a real flying car has to be VTOL. If you need a 1500 foot runway, like the Terrafugia, then what's the point? I want to take off and land from my driveway.

  • ||

    Its been done, commercially, in the 20's, 30' s & 50's.
    Indeed, theres a big basket you put over the prop, or a clutch arrangement to depower the prop & shunt to drive wheels. Of limited production (the various attempts) because while it drove & flew, it did niether well. So, limited sales vs huge investment.
    A 52 Buick with wings, well, then Im interested.....

  • ||

    John, et al

    There was a flying car back in the late 40's through the mid fifties. It flew, but fizzled for many reasons, not the least of which was a bust in the aviation market. There are still 4 of them left.

    The prototype has been re-built by the Experimental Aircraft Association and is in their museum at OshKosh, WI.

    Here's a link with some interesting history on it.

    http://www.airventuremuseum.org/collection/aircraft/Taylor%20Aerocar.asp

  • Ron Hardin||

    Steering cars with rudder pedals and working the throttle by hand makes more sense, whatever the flight characteristics, by the way, as far as convenience goes.

    There's some debate what to do about brakes. Airplanes didn't give it much thought.

  • ||

    Reminds me of an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. Seems like he asked the same question about flying cars or jetpacks.

    As for total freedom to fly, how long do you think it will take for some showboating congressman to hyperventilate about the danger of these things flying into buildings.

  • ||

    Okay, we have a flying car of sorts. Now, can it fold up into a briefcase? Only then will we have achieved true Jetson parity.

  • damaged justice||

    So someone threw their hat into the ring. But did he have to do it with a bunch of guys?

  • Michael Hampton||

    I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Skycar yet. It's been around for at least 10 years, but the FAA has been holding it up.

  • ||

    Sing along, now:

    Supercaaaaaaaaaaah...

  • ||

    Someone is eventually going to use that car to take off from an interstate highway.

  • Paul Rako||

    Looks more like an ad for a very good graphic artist than a practical vehicle. Terrible pitch stability in the air and I would love to see the "developers" drive the car past the windmill installation in Alameda valley. That "car" would be all over the road from the crosswinds. I use scare quotes above because this is just a pipe dream computer simulation that will never fly or drive. Now that any wino can come up with a pretty 3-D model we are getting duped into thinking there is some engineering behind it. There isn't. If you want engineering look at the Eclipse light jet. And look at the amount of testing and development that went in to it. This thing would need a pre-peg (made from expensive molds) carbon fiber body, an engine that was even lighter and a complex and expensive computer system to keep it flying. Look at the way the wings fold up. Any real engineer cringes to see that because they realize the there will be some type of jack-screw mechanism that will have to take the flying loads of the wing. Look at the spar that passes through the cabin of an RV4 and tell me how easy it will be to design the retracting mechanism.

    As to the the Skycar, that is even more pathetic. Moeller made 25 million dollars when he sold his Super Trapp muffler business. He proceeded to piss it all away on that goofball contraption. One of my buddies is a maniac RC model airplane builder. It took him twenty five seconds to debunk the whole thing. He took the weight and calculated the airmass needed to be moved to support the thing. First data point was that the noise level would be 126 dB, right at the threshold of pain, to move enough air with those ducted fans to keep the thing floating. Next back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the specific-fuel consumption would be something like 30 gallons per hour.

    All this is independent of the fact you need a complex fly-by-wire system to just keep the thing stable. No, Moeller is like the scientist or academic that just does not understand engineering. He just can not let go of the thing because he came up with it. Carver Mead did the same thing with the foveon CCD chip. Cute theory, impossible to implement.

    And please, don't make it sound like the FAA is suppressing this piece of crap, just like GM is sitting on an 80 mile-per-gallon carburetor. The FAA is full of people who love to fly. Thousands of experimental aircraft get approved every year. Eclipse is getting fully certified, like Cessna. No, the FAA has nothing to do with the fact that Moeller is not realistic. The sad fact-- for every one pound you add in folding wing mechanism or rotating ducted fans you have to add another ten in structure, landing gear and tires and brakes etc. That is even true in cars. It is very hard to add all this car crap and still end up with a practical plane. All the computers and all the carbon fiber in the world is not going to change that equation.

  • ||

    Go back to your mothers' basements and keep reading your comic books, morons.

    A government that won't let granny carry a bottle of metamucil onto a commercial flight damn well ain't gonna allow any clown with some spare cash to buzz around in his very own flying car.

  • Robert||

    Is it possible to get a flying license by practicing only in such a car?

  • ||

    Paul,

    What assumptions did your friend make in his calculations?

    Thanks!

  • ||

    My own money is on those japanese crazies:

    http://www.petworks.co.jp/~hachiya/opensky/

    Now THAT is freedom. I'm working on an X-Plane model of this, BTW. Maybe I should be asking for investors' money too ?

  • ||

    When I was a kid, I was not only promised a flying car, but also high school in space.

    I dunno what they were smoking at my school.

    Wait! This was on the news! They were all on heroin.

    No, wait, that was the football team.

    I'm stumped.

  • ||

    By 1972, teacher-led classrooms were going to be replaced by rooms full of kids who each sat at his or her own computerized "teaching machine."

    (I read this around 1970, in a kid's SF book written during the 1960s.)

    And who can forget the manned Mars missions of the 1980s, ultimately leading to the thriving, city-sized domed colonies we had in the year 2000?

  • ||

    A 52 Buick with wings, well, then Im interested.....

    You could probably deliver some serious ordinance, as well. The weight might be a serious problem, though--you'd need a Merlin engine and some serious U-2 like wings to get that thing aloft. :)

  • ||

    Heck, Stevo, the kids were all going to be home-schooled, by their teaching machines.

    Oh, yeah, we do have "virtual schools" nowadays, don't we?

    Kevin

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