Well, made it home from Oshkosh lastnight. That was one heck of a trip!
However, a thought keeps bouncing back and fourth in my mind… A Flying Car. Now, don’t think I’m crazy until you hear me out. Think about this. The FAA killed the flying car concept in the early 70s when Mort Taylor built his flying cars… the AirCar 1 and AirCar 3… AirCar 2 wasn’t really a flying car – but a simple modification to the AirCar 1 that added 2 more seats, but it wasn’t a car. Anyway, the FAA required him to certify his car as a car, including crash worthiness, emmisions and fuel economy. Well, a heavy car doesn’t make a good light plane, so that venture failed. In addition to that, FAA Certification of anything flying grew exponentially more expensive becuase of lawsuits, etc. So, even though Mort’s flying cars actually flew – and still do this day, the idea died because of the buracuracy.
Now, we move to 2005. Some recient analysis done by NASA and the FAA suggests that a 2 place plane would take off (no pun indended) in the market place if it was priced about what a good high end car goes for… let’s say $50,000. And, on top of that, the FAA has introduced a new category of plane, called the “Light Sport Plane,” which, cool enough, is limited to two seats. There are other restrictions to it, but the cool thing is that these planes, though certified, aren’t certified to the same standards as “Standard” aircraft like my Cessnas. What does this mean, well, in a nutshell, these planes are inexpensive… right in that magic spot… from $50,000 to $100,000.
So, I got to thinking about it some more… and I thought about my job… travelling around the country on commercial aircraft (or my own if I can) and then renting a car at the other end… staying for a night or two and returning home. A flying car would be perfect for me. But alas, the FAA still has that requirement that it must meet Federal Crash Worthiness and all that other car stuff that makes it a horrible plane.
Then it hit me… what if it wasn’t a flying car after all. Motorcycles don’t have that same requirement… and motorcycles can have 3 wheels. That’s it… if it was a “Flying Motorcycle” that kind of looked like a flying car (with only 3 wheels, which turns out works really well on a plane) then it just might work. Then there is this other problem… what do you do with the prop and wings? Oshkosh gave me the answer. Folding prop… like this glider has: http://www.stemme.de/daten/e/index.html. The wings will be easy… just detach the wings and tail (as a unit) from the car. That “Flight Module” stays at the airport until you return. It gets tied down just like a regular aircraft. The prop stays with the engine (where it should) and get’s neatly tucked away while you are driving. It’s disconnected from the engine via a clutch whenever the “drive” transmission is active… in other words, you are driving the car.
Now, other innovations… Engine… use a standard car engine… they’re much easier and cheaper to maintain, and NASA has reciently done a study that shows that they are more reliable than standard aircraft engines… even without the dual ignition systems, etc. Instruments, as Darth Vader said… “Leave that to me.” I’m a software guy and I’ve already done instruments for cars as well as planes… it’ll just take a little more code to figure out which display to show during which phase (ground or flight.)
The last thing to consider is how to do it… how do you fly it? Well, control systems are my speciality. That’s where the real innovation will come. Stay tuned. Time to start planning. 🙂