It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s… a Flying Car?
How many times have you been stuck in traffic, wishing your car could sprout wings so you could just fly you to your destination?
We’ve seen plenty of fantastic examples on the screen:
- James Bond’s Aston Martin in Die Another Day
- the Weasleys’ flying Ford in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder in Star Wars
- Doc’s DeLorean in Back to the Future
So, why can’t we own one of these for ourselves?
Well, it just so happens that there are a number of companies out there trying to make our dreams come true. Massachusetts-based Terrafugia is one of them. Its Transition model fits in a single car garage, uses fuel from any typical gas station, is a street-legal road vehicle and has wings that fold out so you can take off from any regional or community airport. When you’re flying the Transition, you even have access to a safety parachute that will bring the whole plane back to earth if you run into flight problems.
The prototype has clocked over 100 hours of flying time, and individuals interested in getting one of the first models to come off the production line have already been putting down deposits with the company to reserve one of their own. Terrafugia expects to be handing over the keys to new owners about two years from now. However, you do have to have a pilot’s license to fly one of these. Even though the Transition does look more like a plane than a car, it’s an important step to moving forward.
Slovakian company AeroMobil is another group that’s hard at work on a flying car. It hopes to be able to offer a model commercially in 2017. The elegant prototype seats two passengers and has a flying range of just over 400 miles. It only requires 650 feet to take off or land. With retractable wings and a back propeller, it can reach speeds of 124 miles per hour in the air. On the road, the vehicle gets 29 miles per gallon.
Imagine the looks you would get filling one of these up at your local gas station!
History of the Flying Car
These are only the latest in a wide range of attempts to get us driving and flying in the same machine. The very first patent for a flying car was issued back in 1843 to William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow. The “Henson Aerial Steam Carriage” was designed as a large steam-powered craft capable of transporting passengers. The design boasted a wingspan of 150 feet! Numerous attempts to fly a small prototype model of it were made between 1844 and 1847 and sadly, none of these were successful. Although the company’s publicist created elaborate prints of the craft flying over pyramids in Egypt and receiving passengers arriving on an elephant in India, the airborne carriage never made it past the drawing table.
The Aerocar was the first road-to-sky vehicle that held promise. It made its first successful flight in 1949. Moulton Taylor, the designer and builder of this craft, entered into an agreement with a company to commercially produce these vehicles, but he had to attract 500 orders for this to happen. Unfortunately, only half that number placed orders. In the end, only six examples were ever built. Even so, the importance of the Aerocar was acknowledged by Disney when it created a character based on this vehicle named Franz aka Fliegenhosen in the movie Planes.
The Future of Flying Cars
Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts, Terrafugia might just have the answer to our hope for one of those futuristic looking flying cars. Plans are in development for a sleek vehicle called the TF-X, which would be a self-flying car—no pilot’s license necessary!
With the touch of a few buttons, this hybrid-electric aircraft would take off, land and fly by itself. (Although there would be manual override controls just in case you disagreed with the autopilot!) No runway would be needed, as the TF-X has rotor propellers that enable it to take off just like a helicopter. All this, and it would still be small enough to fit in a single car garage.
So, the next time you’re caught in traffic, remember that the time is coming when you might be able to push a few buttons and just fly away.