In Defense of the Drivable Airplane—Terrafugia CEO Responds to Legions of Doubters

5/13/08Follow @wroush

We know our readers love to hear about radical new technologies and the business opportunities they create. So we weren’t shocked when our article last week about the Transition, the drivable airplane from Woburn, MA-based Terrafugia, turned up on Slashdot and brought more visitors to the site than any Xconomy story since our launch last summer (and temporarily brought down our Web server in the process).

But we were a bit surprised by the comments that readers left here and at Slashdot—the majority of which were critical, even dismissive, of Terrafugia’s concept as a viable business proposition. Given that “flying cars” have been fodder for sci-fi movies, cartoons, and Popular Mechanics covers since the 1930s, it’s understandable that some people feel jaded about the latest promises for airplane-automobile hybrids. But whether or not you’re personally interested in traveling in an airplane with folding wings that doubles as a road-worthy automobile, quite a few private pilots are—as the three-year waiting list for a Transition demonstrates.

Judging from the comments last week, many commenters hadn’t fully absorbed the factual points in the article (to put it politely). Others seemed to feel that because the concept of a car-plane hybrid has been on the drawing boards for so long, it must be inherently flawed. But if you hear out the prize-winning aerospace engineers at Terrafugia, you’ll begin to understand why they feel so certain that current-day materials and electronics make a roadable aircraft—one that’s safe both to fly and to drive—a feasible idea.

In the spirit of friendly debate, we boiled down the hundreds of comments to a dozen basic criticisms, then asked Carl Dietrich, Terrafugia’s CEO and co-founder, to respond to each one. The text of our conversation follows. Please keep in mind that the questions below represent our summaries of the most commonly registered criticisms. They don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Xconomy or its editors.

Xconomy: Thanks for speaking with us again so soon. The first and most repeated criticism of Terrafugia’s work that we heard from readers last week went like this: “Just look how many bad drivers there are on the roads. Being a pilot takes much more skill than driving. So just imagine the havoc if lots of drivers had flying cars.”

Carl Dietrich, CEO and co-founder of TerrafugiaCarl Dietrich: This is one of the most common misconceptions about the Transition. People assume that since we’re building a roadable aircraft it must be a flying car, and therefore will be sold to everybody who drives a car, and that’s just not the case. The vehicle will be sold to licensed private pilots and sport pilots, and these people will have gone through significant training in order to operate a vehicle like this. And they will hold a completely different type of license [from a driver's license]. It’s not something where there is going to be one of these things in every garage. It will be a rarity to see one of these vehicles for the foreseeable future. So you’re not going to turn around one day all of a sudden and see the skies blackened with thousands of Transitions. The real market for these vehicles is solidly in the hundreds of units per year. For cars, you’re talking hundreds of thousands of units. It’s a very different scale. This is an airplane first, and not a replacement for anybody’s car.

X: Criticism number two: Light aircraft have a higher fatality rate per passenger mile than cars.

CD: The absolute number of accidents and fatalities in light aircraft is substantially smaller, of course, than in automobiles. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were correct that accidents and fatalities per passenger mile are somewhat higher. But the things we’re doing to address those issues are what I think is important. There is a market for general aviation, so the question is what can we do to make it better, to make it safer. And I believe we’re doing a lot to make it safer.

Specifically, not only do we have this rocket-deployed parachute that can … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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  • silicon avatar

    So basically it’s a small aircraft aimed at people who have a pilot’s license. While laudable, it isn’t going to usher in a new era of transportation. It might make things more convenient for some private pilots if they can afford it. Most of the private pilots I’ve met can’t.

    When most people hear “flying car” they think of something you can fly without a pilot’s license or years of training – maybe controlled by a computer system or something. The “flying car” concept was supposed to be something that Joe Everyman can use. I don’ think this particular invention really fits that concept.

    • Paul

      There’s never going be such a thing. You’ll need a pilot’s license. This concept appeared a long time ago when there probably wasn’t a necessity for a flying license for pilots or was created by journalists or writers that didn’t know that you need a pilot’s license. Think about it like this…doesn’t matter how many driving aids you put on a car, you’ll always have to have a driving license. The same goes for the plane and Terrafugia is a plane that can move on highways.

      What you do not see is the potential of this aircraft. You will not need to keep your airplane in a hangar. Keeping the aircraft in the hangar is at least 50% of the cost of having an airplne. The best of maximum 50% is maintenance and fuel.

  • Xakh

    The simple truth is, it doesn’t matter until something is built! build one, make it work, until then it’s vaporware.

  • Lance

    why not fill the wings with water from a tap once you land if its simply a weight issue for stability when driving

  • Ed H

    If they build a four seater, I would absolutely love one.

    But, I’m not in any financial condition at present to even START to consider one of these. (Or anything more expensive than a 40 year old Cub, for that matter.)

    Of course, I can always hope to have enough money for it by the time it comes out. A two-seater is nice, but I want to be able to take the kids, too.

  • http://www.mooter.com/ Marshin Chronicles

    1. there ISN’T EVER GOING TO BE any “flying car”, unless “autopilot” gets good-enough to permit non-pilots to “operate” ( probably more-like “schedule” ) the things.

    Period.

    No-one driving a car without a license is permitted to threaten the lives/property of licensed drivers, with impunity, and it’s much tighter regulation in the skies.

    The reason the “flying-car” idea was so popular, in Popular Mechanics, was that *their* readers are devoutly autonomous. They aren’t afraid of doing the work to get a pilot’s license.

    2. ALL products that haven’t been released yet are still-vaporware, but that in no way proves that they are going to remain so.

    3. and what happens when one can’t get all the water out from the wings, and some of it freezes, changing the dimensions of the wings, in a non-controlled manner?

    Do what winter-drivers do: throw a huge sack of kitty-litter in the back.

    It’s cheap, and it won’t crow-bar the inside of your vehicle, and if you need to get the wheels unstuck from ice, pour a couple of handfuls around the drive-tires!

    ( hint: putting a couple of collapsible water-bags, those clear plastic “cubes” used by picnickers, in the back accomplishes the same thing, but doesn’t require changing the engineering of the wings to accommodate *water* )

  • Bob

    The experimental plane industry is kinda like open source software. There are lots of project that are half done and may never get done. There are a few good projects that are done and then copied modified and remade. This is currently in the first category, but once it is done and works you will see more.

    The problem with Moult Taylor car was it never really got done. Moult also had a tendency to fudge things. Like saying the dry weight is 1000 lbs when it is really 1350. So when people built his other planes like the coot they never performed like the should have or he said they would.

    He was a crazy guy loved seeing his designs for the predecessor to the tomahawk missile and the Honda CRX flying car.

  • hagnat

    @Marshin Chronicles
    you really didnt read what Dietrich said, right ? this vehicle is not for the regular driver without flying license.

  • http://www.quantumg.net/ QuantumG

    Good luck, I hope you at least sell a few of them, it would be more than anyone else has done.

  • Richard

    As a private pilot, let me add a few words. First, I have single engine land and seaplane ratings as well as a glider rating. When I first read this article, I immediately mentally compared it to an amphibious airplane (lands on water and/or on land). There are many similarities.

    In fact, an airplane that lands on water is generally a mediocre boat. After all, it is primarily an airplane. Nobody would take one out of the dock just for the purpose of cruising around on the lake. However, having the capability to fly, land on water or land on dry land adds a lot of usability as well as safety. In many parts of the country, an amphibious aircraft that has engine problems or runs low on fuel or encounters bad weather can easily land on a lake and taxi to a suitable dock.

    I see the same concepts in the Terrafugia. It is still primarily an airplane. I cannot envision anyone taking this out for a Sunday afternoon drive around town nor as the “daily beater” for commuting to and from the office. The owner (who has to be a licensed pilot) most likely will only take it out to fly. He can drive to the airport (saving a fortune on hanger fees), taxi onto the active runway and take off.

    If the aircraft encounters engine problems or runs low on fuel or encounters bad weather, it can easily land at any local airport and the pilot can safely drive it home (or to a nearby gas station). I especially like the idea of flying to a distant airport, then being able to drive on local roads to the final destination.

    Again, I see this as an aircraft with extra flexibility, not as a hybrid automobile/airplane. I’d love to own one!

  • Dave

    Like the iPhone, this isn’t replacing anything, its an entirely new paradigm. The only comparisons you can make are the experiences of people who can afford to accomplish the same things with what we have today. If I wanted to go to a 2 hour conference lunch in Salt Lake (from Seattle) I would be very fortunate to only take out one whole day and night, just getting to the commercial airport alone for me, often takes longer than the flight. With this of course a great many things change, first I take of from a closer airport but later on, there would be many more of those and they’d be even closer. When my commercial flight gets diverted to Boise for weather, the whole day is shot, no conference, stuck there until things improve then waiting for flights to catch up. rental car… and so on.

    But like any paradigm shift, thats just the early adopters, the web is a great example, I was chatting and sharing files in 1984 so it was a safe bet that I would gobble up everything web the day it was born, but when my mom started using it to join a political rally in a town 100 miles away, something different was happening that Tim Berners-Lee probably hadn’t invisioned.

    Can you just imagine how safe the roads would be if you could only ride a bicycle unless you had a VFR pilots license? Imagine telling your friends, clients, co-workers, oh, sorry I wont be there the 1st day, I didn’t pass my pilots test yet. Being a far more educated and responsible ‘driver’ would suddenly be all but required.

    • Paul

      The iPhone wasn’t a completely new paradigm. In fact the first smartphone or multifunctional cell phone was Palm Inc’s Kyocera 6035. The only thing that the iPhone brought new was to the cell phones was a muti-touch interface. The iPhone looked good and was easy to use, that’s why it became popular. Don’t believe Steve Jobs’ bs!

  • http://www.osldb.org jim pruett

    One thing I would like to see. Make the parachute forcably open. Pilots crash because they dont admit failure. If they get in a bad attitude, deploy the chute automatically.

  • John C. Randolph

    ” unless “autopilot” gets good-enough to permit non-pilots to “operate” ( probably more-like “schedule” ) the things.”

    That day is rapidly approaching. Compare the speed of events for an object moving through the air, to the processing speed of modern processor chips.

    We have GPS for rough positioning, extremely cheap and accurate acceleration sensors, radar suitable for ground proximity sensing, and we can do peer-to-peer negotiation for traffic control.

    -jcr

  • http://elijahlynn.blogspot.com Elijah

    Some of these comments remind of the pro-vista/MS fanboys.

    I really want to get my pilots license soon. For those who also want one, Civil Air Patrol will train you for free if you pay for the expenses (fuel).

    http://www.cap.gov/index.cfm?nodeid=6081&audienceID=4

    I hear it only takes 40 logged hours to take the test.

    I will definitely be a customer Terrafugia! I had seen your concept when you first came out a while back and hadn’t heard anything since until I saw the RSS feed for Slashdot just now.

    This will be so cool! I also loved Richard’s comment about being able to land on water etc. Would be sweet to see a Road/Water/Air model!!

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  • John

    Still no explanation about how to make something that weighs 1/2 as much as a car meet the same crash test ratings, just some bullshit about advanced composites. There’s already a lot of carbon fiber and advanced composites flying. The reason I think this is a scam is that there’s nothing published, at all, about FAA certification. The FAA is hostile to all innovation(it’s by nature a very CYA organization) and certifying the manufacturing process of an existing design takes a year. Certifying a new aircraft with new technology will be an incredible hurdle. I think this is an elegant scam.

  • Wesley Parish

    The thing I think is most important about this, irrespective of whether or not they actually get into business making and selling roadable aircraft – aerocars – is that in the effort they have moved the development of private aircraft forward.

    One thing that does give me confidence is that they have set limits to their ambitions – it’s just a roadable aircraft for qualified pilots, not a flying car for Everyman.

    Elijah – next you’ll be wanting a flying submarine! :) Talk about a self-contradictory challenge!

  • seb

    It’s a nice notion for people who might have a need for such a thing… And of course they have advanced materials.. why wouldn’t they? You think material science has peeked and there is no more advancement to be made? Tssk.

    What I wonder, after looking at the pictures in the article.. aren’t those folded wings causing a problem as far as line of sight for safe driving goes? They seem awfully in the way of some important angles?

  • JC

    But can you parallel park it?
    How likely is it to blow down elderly pedestrians who try to cross behind it when it starts from a stop?
    What’s the noise level when accelerating from a stop?
    I can see this working well out in the rural plains, but not in an urban area.

  • PA-Pilot

    It will be required to pass highway crash tests, which means it’ll have to be too heavy to be practical as an airplane. You can have a good airplane, or you can have a good car. Something that tries to do both will do well at neither.

  • Rob

    @Jim Pruett: An auto-deploy parachute is a bad idea. As soon as it deploys, the pilot becomes a passenger and has no way to influence landing spots.

    A pilot will have the opportunity to select a safe landing spot, a passenger does not. Can you imagine what happens if this thing ends up in the middle of a schoolyard, killing childs?

  • http://www.osldb.org james pruett

    Just imagine what the aftermarket lowrider guys will come up with for customization!

    Also, we should encourage this team. If this were a new game-startup we would encourage them, so lets do that.

    I think the disparaging remarks are some kind of defense mechanism. Deep down we all want this to succeed.

  • Strixy

    “A two-seater is nice, but I want to be able to take the kids, too.”

    It still won’t stop the cries of, “Are we there yet?” It’s nice to know that you could stop at a local runway and drive to a near by gas station to answer the cries of, “I have to go pee”.

    “Certifying a new aircraft with new technology will be an incredible hurdle. I think this is an elegant scam.”

    I don’t know about the US, but in Canada we have special laws and regulations allowing for ‘experimental’ aircraft.

  • Greg

    While your condensing and responding to all the Slashdot criticism is highly commendable, it wasn’t entirely necessary. Once you get past the article Slashdot highlights, you might as well stop reading. The vast majority of people who post there are not much more than egomaniac critics and will probably never influence the success or failure of your business enterprise. Shoot for your dream and don’t let those bozo’s slow you down in the slightest.

  • Peter

    Sad to read it wil be designed for pilots.
    These days a Home computer (or even my PDA) is tronger then what was used in the apolo project.

    Why would it be that complex to put some flight software in to make it as easily to operate as a car, set hight and drive in the air. I think such a solution would realy be a huge change for transportation. (think of all the trafic jam, when you want to bypass a city.)

    So a little disapointment here, but well its a starter to something like that at least.

  • Scott

    The flying car for Everyman has to start somewhere. This is where and how it starts.

  • http://www.jacqdesign.com Jeremy

    I commend you, on both the innovation, and more so the time and diligence to respond to all the nay sayers. Just like our energy crisis, lots of people find problems, but only a few are working hard to solve all of them, even if it is partially, or with a limited use/range/availability at first. I think this is great, I hope you get the funding and acceptance to get some in production soon. Besides your gas consumption specs are amazing, with all the trucks and hummers on the road, you can say this may be one of the greenest forms of commuting out there, with that speed/consumption of gas.

    I am neither a pilot or engineer of that sort, but I can respect innovation, drive, and time/effort that people put into something. So good luck.

  • Greg

    While I agree with the interest in a four-seater, the target consumer for this is the sport pilot. That limits the maximum weight of the plane and limits the seating to two.

  • Hal

    I’m an inactive private pilot and based on my experience, this plane’s features would be very attractive. One reason I stopped is because of the complications that make light planes so impractical for travel. It’s easy enough to fly to airports, there are thousands of them, but airports are often small, understaffed, far from town, and with not much to do. This leads to the “hundred dollar hamburger”: flying to an airport, stopping at the cafe or diner for a greasy burger, and flying home. Being in the air is beautiful, you see things you could never see otherwise, but after a few hundred hours of flying you’ve seen most of what your local area has to offer.

    A few times I flew to my daughter’s college and brought her home for the weekend. It was 150 miles away, an easy flight and much faster than driving due to traffic. Even though the college was only 5 miles from the airport, that was the hard part. I had to get a taxi, or sometimes the flight office let me use their courtesy van, but it was unpredictable and took extra time. Terrafugia would have streamlined that leg of the trip and made the whole thing simple and efficient. Now, I can’t say whether the cost of the plane would make sense for a weekend pilot like me, but certainly the idea is sound if they can make it work.

  • Claudiu

    I don’t see any side mirrors or a rear window for this vehicle to be safely driven on the road. Also, it would appear that there is one heck of a blind spot.

    Will it have some kind of cameras built in to the extremities and several monitors in the cockpit to make up for the loss of mirrors?

    What is the suspension like on this vehicle?
    Will it be enough to absorb the bumps in the road expected to be found around small airports or will it be solid like a light plane?

    Will the engine in the “car” be capable of pushing the vehicle up to 100Km/h if highway driving is required?

    I may not be able to afford one, but it is very appealing. Keep up the good work!

  • Shawn

    “A two-seater is nice, but I want to be able to take the kids, too.”

    It still won’t stop the cries of, “Are we there yet?” It’s nice to know that you could stop at a local runway and drive to a near by gas station to answer the cries of, “I have to go pee”.

    1.) This is when you perform a barrel roll.
    2.) Pee out the window, if the kids are young enough they’ll think its a hoot.

  • Richard

    —> Just imagine what the aftermarket lowrider guys will come up with for customization!

  • Every modification, even very mino

    —> Just imagine what the aftermarket lowrider guys will come up with for customization!

    Every modification, even minor mods, must be FAA approved before it can be flown. The paperwork and difficulties of making even minor modifications to any aircraft other than homebuilts is daunting and expensive. I doubt if we would see many modifications, if any.

  • Peter

    A wonderful idea. I really want it as bad as a spare a**hole. Its a mix that sounds interesting but will have huge developent costs certification costs for a marginal plane and an even more marginal car.
    The biggest hurdle will be meeting conflicting requirements. Weight of the road legal bits will make it a very fat plane
    However there will be a market for legal version by the too rich too many toys market.

  • http://www.MotorcyclePilot.com David

    For an interesting catalog of other roadable aircraft designs, visit http://www.RoadableTimes.com

    While I’ve always been interested in roadable airplanes, I was never satisfied with the necessary trade-offs, complexity, cost and certification challenges. In my case, it is greatly easier to combine my hobbies of airplanes and motorcycles.

    MotoPOD LLC is putting the final touches on a composite cargo pod that allows pilots to carry a 250cc motorcycle beneath existing airplanes like the Cirrus SR-22, Cessna 350, Vans RV-10 and others. The streamlined pod attaches to the belly and includes an integral winch system to assist the pilot in loading/unloading their motorcycle. After landing, it takes just a few minutes to remove the motorcycle, unfold the handlebars and ride away.

    For the folks that currently enjoy airplanes and motorcycles separately, this should provide a fun and convenient way to enjoy them together.

    More info at http://www.MotorcyclePilot.com

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  • Mel Kosanchick

    The automobile is a magnificent machine that responds to our desired freedom of personal on-demand transportation (compared to scheduled railroads/buses/airlines) and has changed the world. The growth/demand for automobiles has been unstoppable, despite even the doubling of fuel costs. But the infrastructure strategy of widening the road/more roads has limits. You can’t pave the entire planet!!!!

    Hopefully, we are not entirely brainwashed by the automobile and unable to consider new modes of transportation, especially those that are infrastructureless (or utilize less infrastructure than existing transportation modes). An optional carbon neutral biofueled engine for Terrafugia would make their roadable aircraft the greenest form of transportation using minimal physical infrastructure.

    For the past several years at EAA/Oshkosh presentations, I’ve met the CEO/his wife/ committed staff of talented engineers on a mission working 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I observe a Jeffersonian technological revolution that our founding fathers knew was necessary to “promote the general welfare”. Terrafugia talented management team is supported by angel investors who obviously are not vested to just make a quick profit!!! I pray that their Jeffersonian revolutionary spirit will overcome the regulators/gatekeepers and allow this great team/angel investors to reach the marketplace with their innovative product.

    MelKosanchick
    Sonic Helicopters
    31 Old Ridge Road
    St Albans, Missouri, USA 63073

    melkosanchick@aol.com

  • http://www.apollo-fox.com Abid Farooqui

    This is a LSA (Light Sport Aircraft). It will comply with Industry consensus standards under the ASTM structure. In such an aircraft, FAA red tape is kept to a minimum. The manufacturer determines who can do what to the aircraft.

    I understand this concept now. Its basically an aircraft that can land at destination airport and then drive to final destination or the gas pump. I think one commenter compared it to an amphibious airplane although I think it goes farther than that. Perhaps akin to amphibious airplane that can be doubled as a marginal boat at least.

    Quite feasible and doable. We get a few customers asking things like, I have all these chain stores I own and I would like to fly to this town and surprise visit them and thus I am interested in light sport aircraft. We always ask them, well you will still need a car to get you to the store, right? This is perfect for that guy.

    Of course, people using this will have to be at least sport pilots. Flying isn’t driving. Someone said once, if we make flying so easy that even monkeys can do it, what we’ll have is a bunch of monkeys in the air. I don’t want to fly with monkeys in the air. So a pilot’s license is a must.

  • Peter Walker

    As a Light Sport is a near impossible to achieve. LS is a gross weight including fuel crew and anything else you want to take of 1320 Lbs. The current composite planes that are popular have a useful load crew fuel and all that in the roange of 500 – 600 lbs give or take. They dont have folding wings.
    Do the maths you then need road legal lighting suspension brakes transmuission steering yatayatayata
    There is a huge difference between a drivable Aerocar and a street legal Aerocar
    someone really needs put a minimum legal car alongside a small plane and see what actually goes somewher towards being comparable. Wheels or more importntly placement. on a tricycle undercarriage thyhere is 1 at the front and 2 just past halfway. Most autos have a limit on rear overhang of 40% of the wheelbase. It has just a little to do with steering. Did I mention DOT legal tires or minimum braking efeect and efficiency. Or real laminated or safety glass.
    Im having a sale on rose tinted glasses
    Peter

  • Don Stickle

    Hi,
    Thinking about the concerns about side winds and other vehicle wind interactions. For anyone that owns an RV they deal with these problems constantly and manage to survive. These vehicles have large flat sides and relative light weight for the size. They are affected by the turblent air but learn to compensate.
    Thanks,
    Don

  • Mike McNicoll

    I have been following the development of the Transition for about 18 months. I’ve been to the development facility in Woburn, MA and I have met the principles of the company. They are very intelligent people working from a very sound business plan. They will make the Transition work. I am so impressed I have ordered an airplane from them and I have invested in the company.

    A lot of my friends think I am crazy, just like friends of people that invested 25 years ago in a startup company called Microsoft thought. Some people have better vision than others when looking into the future. I am looking forward to saying “I told you so” a few years from now when the Transitions are coming off the assembly line.

  • Peter Walker

    Hello
    Im a doubter of the viability of this project. Im at a loss to how conflicting regulatins can be met. As a GA aircraft the certification costs will be huge. As a LSA with limited weight the DOT requirements will add significant weight, Glass windscreen wipers full lighting heater demist crash protection 4 wheel braking road tires.
    I dont know of either a certified EPA standard aircraft engine or an Auto engine as that has FAA type approval
    Has anyone seriously looked at all the regulations a project like this HAS to meet
    A simple spreadsheet will answer most of the legal requirements
    Im certain one will fly(EXAB) AND drive (tractor?) and will attract significant orders and deposits. Im equally certain tht the required certification to N number and fit licence tags as a production item wont happen

  • davin

    I have my Private Pilots and MEL tickets – most people exposed to the government regulations and weather components imposed on flight would very quickly hang up their keys. Flying/owning a small aircraft is NOT convenient. A flying car (until new hover technologies are discovered) will remain a novelty. Sorry.

  • mjw2025

    I’m also a pilot and completely agree with Davin’s comment. These auto-aircraft designs are not new. Molt Taylor had a similar concept in the 50′s and although his design worked well the concept never got of the ground so to speak.
    We manage auto traffic with signal lights, speed limits, roads to make us follow defined courses and people still get killed. What will it be like when those physical control don’t exist? You might be the most conscientious pilot in the world but it won’t protect you from the automobile equivalent of a lane jumper who’s late for work.

  • P. Brewer

    Hmmm good naysayers. I think this is a very clever and marketable concept and design. Its about time something like this came out of America. I do hope it is manufactured here and not overseas.

    Its the American “Prius”. Sure it takes additional training. Sure you can use it every day but there really are places where the climate allows use of this aircraft more often than not. In these places it would not only be cost effective but the preferred way to travel. Places like California for example. Florida.

    Its where you start. Then slowly but surely you craft an all weather vehicle that is still fuel efficient and easy to master and fly/drive.

    One can readily see that many of the posters here did not bother to study history … the model T did not become the Ford Mustang overnight. Years of refining the manufacturing process as well as the vehicle.

    We now live in an age where computers can be used as a tool to speed all of that up. If the designers are clever enough. In this case I believe they are.

    So, here you go. You want to know what the “Next” thing is? With the economy in dire straits? The stock market in a spiraling dive. Here it is. Opportunity knocking at your door … and what do most do? Denigrate the idea, poke fun at it …

    Buggy whips will never go out of style … now will they?

    But some will listen, will forge ahead, make the risky investment and reap the returns.

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  • Jim

    I love flying. I have a commercial pilot’s license for airplanes and helicopters.

    This isn’t new; since I was a kid 55 years ago, every few years Popular Science or Popular Mechanics would have an article about some small company’s announcement of a flying car, almost always “applying to the FAA for type certification, should be delivering next year…” Next year never came.

    Operating a light plane engine costs about $50 per hour just for scheduled maintenance and overhaul. That’s a pretty expensive way to drive to work or to the store!

    What about your fender-bender accident that now costs $40,000 to repair? Bumping the curb with a tire could kill you the next day when that tire needs to absorb landing impact.

    The discussion of putting unlicensed people in the air is silly and distracts from the real issues. The suggestions above that an electronic autopilot would alleviate the need to know how to fly were written only by those who don’t fly. As for learning to fly, I can’t believe anybody could make a plane that is easier to fly than many models made by Cessna and Piper.

    The idea of a whole-airplane parachute is stupid. Most airplane accidents happen during takeoff or landing, where a parachute is useless. A parachute won’t protect you from a midair collision. If you think you need a whole-plane parachute in case you run out of fuel, you probably shouldn’t fly.

    Splash road-salt on a machine I take into the air and trust with my life? I doubt it.

    I agree with the writers above who say it’s possible to make a car and airplane in the same package, but it will be bad at both.

    However, if their market really is people with too much money who will pay anything for any toy, I wish them luck.

  • http://www.strongware.com/dragon Richard Strong

    You are cordially invited to see my StrongMobile Flying Car Project at http://www.strongware.com/dragon. You can view a 2-minute video of my full-size mockup model.
    Rich Strong (Major,USAF,Retired)

  • PETER WALKER

    I have been reading about this project and commented on the subject From Wiki they have about $5.2 million in funding and in the order of 70 orders The company was incorporated in May 2006 and received $256K by December
    The only flying example is N302TF (FAA) as an EX R+D The stated useful load (pilot passenger luggage and fuel) is stated at 460# Or in real world terms 2 x 180# crew and 100# (16.5 gallons) of fuel with no luggage
    The big question is after 5 years and $5.2 million has anyone seen the prototype taxi AND then drive onto the scales under its own power and achieve a close to specification weight listed at 970 dry (fuel is ~6# a gallon) As an EX R+D it is not subject to a Light Sport gross weight
    Until a certified weight that makes this a viable aircraft for the category is published it is a very slick piece of vaporware
    As a rich boys toy it may still succeed as you can still get in trouble from the wife by attracting all the slim 16 year old girls to wash and polish it in return for a 30 minute fly

  • Paul

    I would love to see this concept become real. It will be revolutionary if it does. Many middle class people will buy it and there will be more airplanes in the sky. There will be more airports. The problem is that it’s the end of December 2012 and there weren’t any deliveries from what I know.

    Maybe there will be a revolution but the irony might be that someone else will buy the company and make it big whle the guys that started everything will have to work for small salaries if they do not start teh deliveries soon..