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"Roadable Aircraft" Moving Towards Launch

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the move-over-bob-cummings dept.

Transportation 186

We discussed Terrafugia's plans for what they don't like to call a "flying car" — rather a "roadable aircraft" — last spring. The Boston Globe has an update on Massachusetts-based Terrafugia and its fight to get airborne in these parlous times. "The last serious attempt to bring a car-airplane hybrid to market was the Aerocar, in 1949. According to Carl Dietrich, chief executive of Terrafugia, that company built six prototypes. It needed 500 orders in order to gear up for mass production, but it never got there... 'It can be hard to explain the value of this to non-pilots,' Dietrich says, 'but when you're a pilot, the problems of high costs, limited mobility on the ground, and weather sensitivity are in your face, all the time.' The company says more than 50 of the vehicles have been pre-ordered. The target price is $198,000."

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Uses (5, Insightful)

man_ls (248470) | about 6 years ago | (#25434039)

I assume that the target market for this type of vehicle isn't the lay driver who wants a "flying car" to dodge traffic and be cool, it's the private pilot who wants to be able to fly somewhere and not have to worry about ground transportation at the receiving end.

If I were a pilot, that's what would keep me from actually using a small plane to get around -- because unless my business was at the airport, I'd be stuck.

Re:Uses (-1, Offtopic)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 6 years ago | (#25434117)

Wow. Is there someone out there who devotes their life to modding down the first post on a given thread, no matter its content? Man, now I don't feel so bad about being slow to catch new stories.

Re:Uses (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434127)

good point cock-job.

Re:Uses (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25434129)

It's not supposed to be "for the lay driver in 3D traffic", but it IS for the pilot to "Fly somewhere thus dodging traffic". Yes, that car rental problem at the end of a flight is a bear hidden trap that doe seriously add a cost to trips. This is practically the "Holy Grail" of transport.

Re:Uses (4, Funny)

Kandenshi (832555) | about 6 years ago | (#25434285)

I'm holding out for personal teleportation tech.

1. Punch in the place you want to be.
2. It "dials" to see which of the [X] receiving platforms are unoccupied there
3. Magic happens.
4. You're standing on a teleport pad roughly where you want to be, get off, and someone else probably arrives soon after you.

As long as I'm dreaming I'd like a pony and a fully functional gynoid with a remote control.

Re:Uses (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434631)

That "magic" will likely be to digitally image all the molecules in your body, construct a copy of yourself in another location, and destroy the original... there are ethical and moral issues with this, since it basically means cloning and killing yourself.

Re:Uses (5, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 6 years ago | (#25435311)

> 4. You're standing on a teleport pad roughly where you want to be, get off, and someone else probably arrives soon after you.

4b. Alternatively, due to a slight miscalculation of departure times somebody is teleported to your location while you are still on the teleport pad, instantly accelerating the atoms formerly known as "your body" into all directions away from their former positions in a bloody explosion.

Re:Uses (4, Funny)

Klowner (145731) | about 6 years ago | (#25435673)

ouch, telefragged

Re:Uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25436241)

learn2step2

Re:Uses (4, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | about 6 years ago | (#25434493)

The big questions are

1: how much extra will a roadable airplane cost compared to a normal one?
2: how much will this cost to insure (i'm betting a lot, particularlly for fully comprehensive cover)
3: how long will it take to convert between airplane and car modes?

In summary will it really be cheaper and/or more conviniant than hiring a car at your destination airport?

Re:Uses (5, Insightful)

ngg (193578) | about 6 years ago | (#25435027)

1: how much extra will a roadable airplane cost compared to a normal one?

The people who want to build the aircraft mentioned in TFA plan to sell it for about $200k. A used, but very serviceable, two seat "regular" airplane can be bought for around $20k to $30k and a four-place for about $40k to $50k. So, the roadable airplane seems to cost between 4x and 10x as much as a normal one. And, if having a new airplane is important to you, you could spend $120k for a brand new Cessna Skycatcher, which comes from a company with an established track record of building reliable airplanes--and doing it profitably, which means that spare parts will continue to be available for many decades that well-maintained airplanes last.

For the price of a new roadable airplane, you could buy a used normal plane and have enough left over for a few luxury cars (or a whole fleet of Civics/Fits/Corollas/Yarii) to park at your most frequent destinations. Consider also that a normal airplane, because it doesn't need to make so many compromises, will be better at being an airplane than this roadable plane will. And the same goes for the normal car being a car.

Re:Uses (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 6 years ago | (#25435883)

Holy shit, really? I've been looking into planes (like Cessnas) and they were more towards the $100K range for a four seater. I want to get my pilot's license and a four seater aircraft, but they're usually over $100K. How do you find them for half that?

Re:Uses (3, Interesting)

lakeland (218447) | about 6 years ago | (#25435913)

I don't think comparing new to used is fair, so lets look at your new prices - $200k vs $120k. That means you're spending about $80k extra getting a road-certified plane - probably a bit more in reality as parts are likely to cost more, etc.

You suggest purchasing a car for each airport that you plan on flying this plane to. Lets say you purchase just two cars for $15k each, using rentals whenever you go anywhere else so you've now got a buffer of $50k. How much will you pay in hanger fees, car fees, and car storage fees, not to mention maintaince on three veichles instead of one?

$300/month seems fairly conservative for hanger fees. Add a couple hundred extra for the car fees and your Cessna is looking at being more expensive after about eight years.

Re:Uses (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 6 years ago | (#25435229)

There's also the benefit of being able to park and work on the aircraft in your garage, instead of renting a hangar at the local field for hundreds of dollars a month.

Re:Uses (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 6 years ago | (#25434151)

Parent is correct. Ground transportation at the destination is the EXACT purpose of this form of machine. That's why they're not advertising it as a flying car. Because it's not. It's an airplane that can legally drive on roads to get you to your hotel or a cheap parking garage. (Hanger fees are exorbitant.)

EXORBITANT? (4, Informative)

way2trivial (601132) | about 6 years ago | (#25434183)

then don't put it in one
many many small airports charge a $10.00 tiedown fee to tie it up on the tarmac, waived if you buy fuel..

FFS why put it in a hangar?

Re:EXORBITANT? (4, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | about 6 years ago | (#25435507)

Because while being covered with dimples may work well for a golf ball, they do considerably less aerodynamic good when applied to an airplane by a passing hail storm.

What about fuel costs? (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 6 years ago | (#25435177)

Given the price of fuel needed to keep a machine in the air, I doubt anybody who can afford to fly to work every day will worry about airport fees.

Re:Uses (1, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | about 6 years ago | (#25434307)

this type of vehicle isn't the lay driver who wants a "flying car" to dodge traffic and be cool

I should hope that anything that flys, regardless of how popular it becomes, still requires a pilots license and that the skill needed to attain such a license remain quite high. Lay drivers manage to kill 43,443 people in 2007. [car-accidents.com] I don't want to see what the statistics would be if people were text, putting on makeup, eating, yelling at the kids in the backseat, playing with the radio, fighting off sleep, etc. while flying a plane. Sure, there is more open space in the sky than on the road, but with how many drivers act that's just giving them more rope to hang themselves with.

Fuel economy of airplanes vs ground transport is another rant entirely.

Re:Uses (0)

VagaStorm (691999) | about 6 years ago | (#25434641)

Imagine a 2 cm by 2 yard table. then imagine 4 match box cars. Is the chanse of then ocupying the same spce largest if they must all stay on the 20cm line or if they can use the entire table? :)

Re:Uses (4, Informative)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 6 years ago | (#25434931)

Also known as the Big Sky Theory. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Uses (3, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | about 6 years ago | (#25435487)

The same idea apply to sailing open water, yet I have seen boats run right into buoys and over other boats' anchor lines. I've seen sailors lock the wheel and then run below decks to grab something, leaving the boat going full speed with no one at the wheel. In open water, I frequently lock the wheel (I stay on deck) and eat a sandwich or apply sunscreen or whatever. On open water at times it can be difficult to remember to look up every fifteen seconds, getting sidetracked is easy. There is a salty saying "There's three types of sailors: those who've gone aground; those who haven't, but are going to; and liars." [48north.com] The danger isn't in the featureless open space, it's near the destinations, navigation points, and obstacles. That's where the degree of attention required changes more quickly than is often accounted for. Everyone gets used to a big open space and they lose the focus to avoid the easiest obstacles, that's why I sited such common driver distractions as putting on make up, talking on the phone, and yelling at the kids in the back. Drivers do these things now, with something that demands as much attention as highway driving, and I think that a less demanding environment would exacerbate these behaviors and habits, making those drivers completely unaware of when they were entering a situation that demanded more attention. Compare your own level of focus between driving on a long straight stretch of road vs a winding road.

Re:Uses (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 6 years ago | (#25435893)

Well, I guess pilots had better watch out for those sky buoys with anchors flailing around!

Re:Uses (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 6 years ago | (#25435489)

If someone can't hold a line, they probably aren't going to be able to land or taxi properly and consistently either.

Re:Uses (3, Interesting)

Pooua (265915) | about 6 years ago | (#25435335)

I should hope that anything that flys, regardless of how popular it becomes, still requires a pilots license and that the skill needed to attain such a license remain quite high. Lay drivers manage to kill 43,443 people in 2007.

Absolutely correct! Most people are horrible pilots of anything they operate and make poor transportation decisions. They do whatever they want, with little regard for what the people around them are doing. Every region has different ways of driving poorly, but in my region of Texas, they don't know how to maintain speed while cornering or going up hills, they don't know how to merge or yield, they don't signal their lane changes or turns, they drive at night like they are night blind, they drive either 8 mph under the speed limit or 15 mph over the speed limit, they blare loud music out of their vehicles, they swerve across 3+ lanes of traffic at the last minute to take an exit or entrance ramp, they use all available space to make a turn (even breaking State law to make a right-hand turn across as many road lanes as are available), they tailgate, they sit at red lights blocking the right-turn lane from turning because they won't make the legally-allowed right-hand turn on red, they won't make a left turn on a solid green light (they have to have a green arrow, or they won't even attempt the turn), they pace vehicles, especially while driving in the other driver's blind spot. In the last few weeks, I've encountered several drivers who simply stop and remain in the middle of the road whenever they have a problem, even in a 45 mph zone. The concept of a free flow of traffic is alien to most Texas drivers, and many of them drive like they have spent their lives on a country road without having to consider other drivers.

Texas drivers are mostly annoying, and only somewhat hazardous. In Virginia, especially closer to D.C., the drivers are more ruthless, more vicious. If you signal a lane change, they usually will attempt to block you from changing lanes.

I've long said that when flying cars become marketable, I'm installing an anti-aircraft gun in my front yard.

Re:Uses (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 6 years ago | (#25434397)

You got it. OK aircraft quite possibly. Awful car probably. That's about the best that looks to be doable. Better than walking.

This is not everyman's flying car for flying to the grocery store. It's not supposed to be.

Re:Uses (1)

man_ls (248470) | about 6 years ago | (#25434561)

Carbon-fiber and under 1500 lbs. to fit in the light-sport category is very interesting. I wish there was a picture, though -- does the rear mounted propeller provide the thrust while on the ground as well as in the air?

The engine and engine-driven accessories in my previous ground vehicle came in weighing nearly 900 lbs (yay 1980s diesels!), so they must be doing something pretty creative to get the entire thing to weigh only a little more than that.

Re:Uses (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 6 years ago | (#25434715)

hah there's no way the propeller pushes the car on the ground.. that would be horrifying to drive. It would take MINUTES to get up to highway speed and forget it if you want to freeze it in a pinch

Re:Uses (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 6 years ago | (#25435207)

I think 'minutes' is a bit exaggerated... after all, takeoff speeds will likely be in the highway range (65-70 mph); if it took you minutes to get to those speeds you'd be flying from runways several miles long. Acceleration would be comparable to a loaded compact car, maybe.

But in any case, no, the prop isn't the power source on teh ground.

Re:Uses (2, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | about 6 years ago | (#25435791)

You're right. They had to do a lot of engineering to build an airplane that can back up, has proper brake lights, etc, etc, etc ... and keep it light enough to fly. FYI, the maximum takeoff weight of a fully loaded Cessna 172 is 1043kg. A Chevrolet Aveo -- an extremely small and light car -- weighs in at 1066kg with no payload whatsoever including driver, fuel, or fuzzy dice.

Re:Uses (2, Informative)

sheetsda (230887) | about 6 years ago | (#25434895)

I'm not sure that's a valid market. Smaller airports frequently have a courtesy car they will lone you for a few hours if you fill up the plane with gas at their FBO, many FBOs even list this fact in their AFD listing. Failing that, the typical cost of renting a car for a day is less than half the typical cost of renting a small plane for an *hour* or if you own the plane, a little over the cost of an hours fuel burn at cruise, and most rental car places will bring the car to you. IAAPP (I Am A Private Pilot)

The advantage I see in this is combating weather. If I want to go on a week long trip, its conceivable that the weather forecast will change enough in that week that I won't be able to get back on time. With this thing, I could prefer flight, but drive to another airport if necessary to escape bad weather. That said, if I'm an aircraft renter, an IFR rating is cheaper and probably enough, and I can't see these things being rental craft (imagine the insurance on a $198,000 rental car).

I assume that the target market for this type of vehicle isn't the lay driver who wants a "flying car" to dodge traffic

Off-topic aside: I've been seriously considering getting powered parachute (which, if flown under certain restrictions requires *zero* training for anyone, even without a pilots license) to make my daily ~7 mile commute to work. Anyone have any experience with those? Could be they be a short range commute craft?

Isn't that what "flying communities" are for? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 6 years ago | (#25435125)

Small towns with their own runway so you can land and taxi directly to your own garage? Apparently there's about 300 of them in the USA now.

eg. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE6DF123AF933A2575AC0A96F948260 [nytimes.com]

The market for flying cars is vanishingly small. It makes a lot more sense to make special towns than to try and build a limited-production car which car which converts into a 'plane, along with all the compromises and complications that entails. It'll be a horrible 'plane and an even worse car.

Re:Uses (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#25435995)

If I were a pilot, that's what would keep me from actually using a small plane to get around -- because unless my business was at the airport, I'd be stuck.

Yeah, the world is waiting for someone to get the bright idea of offering cars for hire, rent, or lease.

Re:Uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25436013)

Believe it or not, ground transportation isn't usually a problem. In many cases there are courtesy cars available for the use of flight crews (purchasing fuel when using the car is considered good form), and failing that (unless you are in the backcountry) rental cars are more or less always available (most of the time, you'll have to call ahead to arrange this).

Re:Uses (1)

tyler_larson (558763) | about 6 years ago | (#25436107)

I assume that the target market for this type of vehicle isn't the lay driver who wants a "flying car" to dodge traffic and be cool, it's the private pilot who wants to be able to fly somewhere and not have to worry about ground transportation at the receiving end.

If I were a pilot, that's what would keep me from actually using a small plane to get around -- because unless my business was at the airport, I'd be stuck.

It is this exactly.

Even though I'm a pilot, and even though I have access to relatively inexpensive aircraft for short to medium distance travel, I still find myself driving instead when I could fly because I'll need the car when I get there. In the end, driving only adds a few extra hours each way, reduces safety only slightly, and the cost is comparable. So I might as well drive and not have to worry about whether I'll be able to find a reasonable car at the other airport.

A "road-worthy" aircraft would be a welcome improvement if you didn't have to sacrifice too much to get it. Some of the details of this project make it sound like more of a proof-of-concept solution than something I would actually use, however.

Note that if by "flying car" one is referring to a "personal" aircraft for use by ordinary people with no more training or certification than you get with the standard driver's license, then you ought to forget such delusions right away. The technology is not the problem. We have the technology already.

But technology fails. No matter how fail-safe you engineer it, some instance of the design will eventually break. And when an aircraft fails, you NEED a qualified pilot at the controls prevent disaster.

Re:Uses (1)

Teriblows (1138203) | about 6 years ago | (#25436179)

james mays new show on this type of stuff was rather amusing. the number of licenses you have to get to be able to fly a flying car is quite insane:) he flew in an actual flying car in one episode. design from decades ago.

I look forward to the day (-1, Redundant)

kbrasee (1379057) | about 6 years ago | (#25434131)

when we can all ride around in our flying cars.

It's 2008 people (1)

JohnHegarty (453016) | about 6 years ago | (#25434141)

Dam it , it's 2008 people I was promised a flying car !!!

You had your flying car in 1979... (3, Funny)

Nick Driver (238034) | about 6 years ago | (#25434335)

...and it was called the General Lee [thedukesofhazzard.net]

Didn't fly very far and the nose-first landings were a bit on the rough side.

And then my mom got scared. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434147)

And then she said you're moving with your uncle and your auntie in Bel-Air.

Not much of a plane either (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 6 years ago | (#25434169)

Quote from their website:"Drive to your local airport, fly up to 400nm, land, convert, and drive directly to your destination."

Call me back when this thing can fly above one billionth of a meter.

Re:Not much of a plane either (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434263)

har har.

For those who actually don't know, in aviation nm is nautical miles, not nanometers.

Re:Not much of a plane either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434301)

nanometers, nautical miles... hey, what's a few orders of magnitude between friends?

Re:Not much of a plane either (2, Funny)

Toll_Free (1295136) | about 6 years ago | (#25434733)

A lot, according to your girlfriend. :)

--Toll_Free

Re:Not much of a plane either (-1, Redundant)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 6 years ago | (#25434331)

Your attempt at being funny fails. The abbreviation "nm" has long been a standard for nautical miles, too. It's not great range for an airplane (a Cessna 172 can pull 600nm without much difficulty), but it's a good first start.

Besides, we'd be calling you immediately, since it would be flying 400 billionths of a meter up, many times higher than your benchmark.

Re:Not much of a plane either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434457)

The plane is still ugly.

Douche.

Re:Not much of a plane either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434599)

(a Cessna 172 can pull 600nm without much difficulty)

What?!? That's basically it's maximum theoretical operational range.

First, I rarely get 120 knots out of the thing. Maybe with a tailwind.

Two, even if you could get 120 knots, with VFR you have to buffer fuel for taxiing, take-off, patterns, stuff not directly related to cruise. Plus a 30 minute buffer in case you need to redirect. It's a 45 minute flight time buffer for IFR.

The most I would consider the range of a typical 172 is 500 nm. But that's me. I'm a bit cautious in the air.

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

zamboni1138 (308944) | about 6 years ago | (#25434525)

That was a good one.

But all joking aside, this "roadable aircraft" has a range of 400nm and costs $200K. Compare that with a Cessna 162 SkyCatcher which will get you 470nm range at $120K. So the roadable costs you an additional $80K.

And where is Mr. Moller during all of this?

Re:Not much of a plane either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434611)

That's not quite all the math is it?

Gas is a huge expenditure, and the costs involved with fueling a plane can be very exorbitant. What it if you could run it into town to get gas, then park it back at the hangar?

I definitely see a future for these things.

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

zamboni1138 (308944) | about 6 years ago | (#25434679)

Not in this case. Both of these aircraft will get about 20nm/gal on 100LL.

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

harrypancakes (1389315) | about 6 years ago | (#25434623)

400nm *is* above one billionth of a meter, in fact it is 400 times above.

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 6 years ago | (#25434751)

Yeah, I was a bit too quick on the post. But 400 billionth of a meter still isn't much, especially for an airplane.

Re:Not much of a plane either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434881)

Now that you posted this, I'm not sure if you're still kidding or if you're really that stupid. I hope it's the former.

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 6 years ago | (#25436231)

Yes I'm kidding, however I never studied aviation nor do I use "miles" when I measure distances. If you say "nm" to someone who uses metric, he will also understand it as "nanometers".

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 6 years ago | (#25434903)

"fly up to 400nm," [...] Call me back when this thing can fly above one billionth of a meter.

They're actually using base 2 notation... That makes it much bigger! Stupid airplane manufacturers misusing accepted binary notation units as metric, so NIST had to introduce "NiM" notation to replace "NM"...

Re:Not much of a plane either (1)

netringer (319831) | about 6 years ago | (#25435717)

Quote from their website:"Drive to your local airport, fly up to 400nm, land, convert, and drive directly to your destination."

Call me back when this thing can fly above one billionth of a meter.

Not to ruin a geek guffaw, but this nm = nautical miles.

Air Traffic Control is like Appletalk (2, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 6 years ago | (#25434247)

Carrier Sense, Multiple Access, Collision Avoidance. Sadly, the roads, and soon (?) the skies might be filled with mouthbreathers who operate on the Ethernet (Carrier Sense, Multiple Access, Collision Detection) model. Who the hell would ever insure on of these? Lloyd's of London ?

Re:Air Traffic Control is like Appletalk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434549)

Mouth-breathers?

Seriously?

Re:Air Traffic Control is like Appletalk (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 6 years ago | (#25434737)

Are those words?

Re:Air Traffic Control is like Appletalk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25435173)

> Are those words?

No, they're small gardening implements and furry animals. Sheesh!

Parlous...I like that. (2, Funny)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | about 6 years ago | (#25434347)

"Them's parlous times, pod'ner!"
"Parlous Linux 2008: Because life sucks"
"ParlOS - optimized for low latency thin client computing over parsec-level distances"
"Parlous Santana"

Re:Parlous...I like that. (1)

solafide (845228) | about 6 years ago | (#25434925)

Parlous [bartleby.com] is perfectly valid English, and a nice word to boot. (Also, you misspelled pardner.)

Re:Parlous...I like that. (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | about 6 years ago | (#25435005)

Sorry, my friend. Google tells me that my cult of podner-using fanatics is around 20,000 results strong. That aligns with my opinion as to just who would use podner and who would use "pardner" and get shot. City slickers.
Also, I'm guessing you think I mistook Parlous for some other word or something...? I don't really understand why you felt the need to bring Bartleby-san into this discussion.

Re:Parlous...I like that. (1)

TrashJefferson (212682) | about 6 years ago | (#25435041)

"Pardner?" Where are you from, New York City, PODner?

Re:Parlous...I like that. (1)

Z34107 (925136) | about 6 years ago | (#25435659)

Yes, yes; "Parlous" is a perfectly cromulent word.

(Why did Google Chrome put a red squiggly line underneath "cromulent"?!)

Not new. (2, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | about 6 years ago | (#25434365)

This report reminds me of the many videos of people donning various winglike arm attachments and diving off platforms or tall structures to disastrous results.

This concept is not new. Everyone's been developing their own "car-o-plane" for ages. I'd be very surprised if this one goes anywhere beyond the previous ones [howstuffworks.com]

Re:Not new. (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 6 years ago | (#25434935)

"This report reminds me of the many videos of people donning various winglike arm attachments and diving off platforms or tall structures to disastrous results."

As demonstrated repeatedly, the "winged jet suit" concept works surprisingly well.

The flying car, so far, does not work well and crossing the two types of vehicle guarantees a shit result. The shit result may be entertaining, but that is all. Running articles about flying cars on /. only appeals to the technically naive who have some respect for the idea.

Re:Not new. (2, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | about 6 years ago | (#25436195)

On the contrary, I do think Moller is on the right track.

Is prototypes work, and work well. They're too expensive right now, but they have the range, safety, and power necessary. The government just has no structure to deal with it, and the FAA is far too rigid and geared toward a completely different paradigm.

The crucial difference between moller's models and concepts like this is he doesn't try to work off either an automobile or aircraft chassis.

He's developed his own, unique system.

It is not roadworthy, but it's quite skyworthy, and designed well for its purpose.

Re:Not new. (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 6 years ago | (#25435929)

You may be interested in checking out the Flugtag [wikipedia.org] , then.

I'm willing to kick in a couple of bucks. (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | about 6 years ago | (#25434409)

Not that I consider myself a likely customer but it seems to me that this is the kind of research and development into low cost aircraft that will likely improve the pool of technologies and techniques available to all of us.

I think that we see a lot of stories on /. about tech projects that we are in favor of but where we're not going to buy the product and few or none of us are in a position to become investors. Maybe it would be a good idea for /. to have an opt-in feature of a Donate To This Project Here button for such stories. Again, it would only be visible to those of us who requested it in our prefs. But I think that there are an awful lot of projects where if we /.ers had the chance to easily contribute a few bucks when we saw a story about a project we liked, it would add up to serious money fast. I would opt in. In fact, if required, this might even get me to buy a membership here if doing so kicked into a pool of money that would pay for the additional work the selector of the story would have to carry out to execute such a step.

Re:I'm willing to kick in a couple of bucks. (1)

ccguy (1116865) | about 6 years ago | (#25434483)

I definitely can't wait to contribute to a project that would allow the many great drivers in my neighborhood to continue showing their skills right by my window.

I think the idea is to make it a business.... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 6 years ago | (#25434613)

.... not a charity case.

And I'm not sure why you feel donating money towards making some rich guys $200,000 car/planes is a particularly worthy cause.

Re:I'm willing to kick in a couple of bucks. (1)

jcr (53032) | about 6 years ago | (#25434807)

But I think that there are an awful lot of projects where if we /.ers had the chance to easily contribute a few bucks when we saw a story about a project we liked, it would add up to serious money fast. I would opt in. I

The means to do this were invented centuries ago; it's called joint-stock corporation. In the USA these days though, overregulation has made it impractical to sell shares in a new venture to the public unless you're trying to raise tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

-jcr

Solution in search of problem? (1)

mjensen (118105) | about 6 years ago | (#25434417)

"but when you're a pilot, the problems of high costs, limited mobility on the ground, and weather sensitivity are in your face, all the time."

You won't/can't land these on a road*, so it means you have to land at the airport and make it a car.

Just rent a car.

(* At least I don't want to be looking overhead for someone trying to land a plane in my road lane. Brings road rage to new heights.)

Re:Solution in search of problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434517)

Most airports don't have airports. Most towns that have airports don't have rental cars. Only a tiny fraction of airports actually have car services available.

Re:Solution in search of problem? (4, Informative)

Snad (719864) | about 6 years ago | (#25434533)

Renting a car is fine if you're flying somewhere where such is available.

When I used to fly little Cessna 152s around the place we would often land at "airfields" that were little more than converted sheep paddocks with a gas pump off to the side. The nearest rental car place would have been 100 miles in any direction you cared to choose.

For that kind of flying, something like this would be practically nirvana. For flying between international airports, yes stick with the rental Chrysler or something...

OLD NEWS!!! ALREADY BEEN DONE!! (3, Funny)

gsgriffin (1195771) | about 6 years ago | (#25434535)

Gosh. I remember seeing this done a long time ago. It's really simple to do. In fact, you can use spare parts from around your house to build it...that is if you live in an old house with a large fireplace hood. The vehicle may look a little strange and make funny sounds while driving down the road, but you can always sing a little tune to mask the sound. Sorta sounds like, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. You get used to it.

I wonder how many buy it for its road abilities (1)

daBass (56811) | about 6 years ago | (#25434559)

This thing has the nicest looking cockpit of any Light Sport Aircraft and it is one of the few amphibious models.

Those are two very attractive selling points for the retiree pilot who is cashed up with a cabin on a lake but may not be able to pass the medical requires for a private license any more.

I wonder how many of they fifty people that have ordered one care too much about weather they can put in on the road or not.

Re:I wonder how many buy it for its road abilities (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 6 years ago | (#25434879)

"Those are two very attractive selling points for the retiree pilot who is cashed up with a cabin on a lake but may not be able to pass the medical requires for a private license any more."

Great. Not only do we have to dodge the dodderers on the road, but we'll have falling gummers to deal with too.
Not meeting medical standards is a hint to stay on the ground or let someone else do the piloting.

Re:I wonder how many buy it for its road abilities (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 6 years ago | (#25435279)

The medical standards for pilots are a little more demanding. THings like diabetes or colorblindness require a lot of paperwork to get waivers for at the private pilot level. Airline pilots get a whole battery of tests (EKGs, blood tests, etc) every six months.

Pilots are wary of doctors for a reason. One doctor saying "hmm, that looks funny" and denying your certificate can take months to resolve, if ever. Even documented proof of a false positive, or a "I was taking this blood pressure medication, but now I stopped and that documented side effect went away" might not be enough. And even if you do get it cleared up, the denial is on your permanent record and the FAA is watching.

I've known guys unable to work for months after such problems. I know it's important to have healthy people up front, but mistakes on the doctor's part should be cleared up rapidly and without further prejudice to the pilots.

Re:I wonder how many buy it for its road abilities (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | about 6 years ago | (#25435557)

Hell yes. I know a guy who needs to go through a bunch of crap every single year because he once had hepatitis C. What does once having had hepatitis C (he is now cured) have to do with your ability to fly an airplane? Jack diddly squat, that's what.

The FAA has different medical requirements for different types of aircraft for a reason. There's no point in holding yourself to a higher standard than what the FAA requires. If you still feel good enough to fly but would fail a higher-class medical on a technicality, why not fly?

Re:I wonder how many buy it for its road abilities (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 6 years ago | (#25435743)

Cause if you're denied your first-class for that false positive, you can't get your third-class and fly private planes until it gets cleared up.

Re:I wonder how many buy it for its road abilities (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | about 6 years ago | (#25435763)

Yes but if you know in advance that you'll fail, and instead simply don't get a new medical, you can continue to fly in a category which does not require one.

Now, the rule that says that you can fly Light Sport without a medical but you can't fly if you've been denied a medical truly makes no sense. But if you can get out ahead of time so that your medical simply lapses instead of failing it, you're still in fine shape. And my understanding is that you can continue to fly gliders (including motorgliders with performance comparable to some Light Sport planes) even if you have actually failed a medical.

What the fuck?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434563)

If there's one thing I hate, it's when a story calls for a picture and there's no picture available.

Re:What the fuck?! (1)

jcr (53032) | about 6 years ago | (#25434691)

You know, there's this thing called google [google.com] these days, which can easily point you to their web site [terrafugia.com] , where you can find all the pictures they've got.

Or you could just bitch about it.

-jcr

/. editors are worthless (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25434649)

Jesus, kd, "parlous"? You fucking suck.

Re:/. editors are worthless (1)

capnkr (1153623) | about 6 years ago | (#25434781)

Nope, just obscure....
 
Parlous

Pronunciation: par les

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle English, alteration of perilous

Date: 14th century

1: obsolete : dangerously shrewd or cunning
 
2: full of danger or risk : hazardous
 
  usage: "the parlous state of the country"

This will fail for one reason: (1)

Toll_Free (1295136) | about 6 years ago | (#25434787)

Cost of fuel.

Anyone here ever bought aviation fuel? I mean, it AIN'T cheap.

I can't imagine they are trying to put a I4, V6 or any other engine from a typical automobile in it, and it does NOT cost little to build, maintain and keep an airplane engine in the air (I went through mechanics school, and my Engines teacher was a aircraft engine mechanic, the cost was EXHORBINANT).

Now, factor in the cost of the fuel, vs the cost of the gasoline you could be running.

Of course, there are methods of using more than one type of fuel in the engine, but I doubt they would even attempt that, due to the liability if one fell out of the air.

Yeah, I'm ready to shell out 5 to 8 dollars a gallon,for a vehicle that will more than likely be heavier than a standard commuter car.

Of course, we as American's usually end up going for convenience rather than intelligence.

So, maybe it will gain momentum.

--Toll_Free

Re:This will fail for one reason: (1)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | about 6 years ago | (#25434973)

RTFA, it uses premium unleaded gas.

Alternative (2, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 6 years ago | (#25434815)

An integrated, detachable motorbike would probably be more useful.

Re:Alternative (5, Funny)

Lost Engineer (459920) | about 6 years ago | (#25435447)

Insightful? You completely stole that idea from Batman.

informative shitShit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25435035)

All our times hawve Project returns

YUO FAIL IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25435089)

Changing Lanes (2, Insightful)

j_kenpo (571930) | about 6 years ago | (#25435319)

Maybe its just me, but it looks like changing lanes must be a bitch in this thing. The foldable wings are huge obstructions to both the driver and the teeny tiny side mirrors. Of course, I haven't sat in one, so I don't exactly have first hand experience.

Sounds like something for Ted Turner (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 6 years ago | (#25435373)

To get around on his Belgium sized ranches.

Nice idea, but there are 1 or 2 problems... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25435425)

Before you say anything else, yes I am a licensed pilot so here we go...

Parking by brail. Yes I am sure you have all heard about it and I am quite sure most of you have done it to one degree or another. That is when you just touch the car behind or in front of you while trying to parallel park. The thing is, with aircraft, if you graze anything or your aircraft is grazed by anything else, much less dented, the aircraft is instantly grounded until inspected by an A&P ( Airframe and Power Plant mechanic) and certified as being once again airworthy. So parking will be a pit of a problem.

Now arguably people that buy one of these will be pretty well-off in the money department, but if they want to use it as intended they have to drive the thing through all kinds of traffic with the hazards therein.

There are unprotected control surfaces on both ends of the beast. One commuter reading the paper or reaching for their coffee bumps you and you now have damaged control surfaces and again the machine is grounded.

The wings are hinged to retract and fold. When winds are folded and not locked together the only structural stiffness is the hinges. Just that thought gives me pause. Drive the Mass Pike or any other commuter road lately? I don't know about yours but mine have serious potholes and undulations, not to mention serious stop and go driving with a lot of hard braking. I just cannot see this thing standing up to the kind of beating your car takes on a daily basis.

Safety... I cannot imagine how they are going to get this thing through the DOT when clearly in order for this thing to fly it has to be made out of some seriously light weight materials. So it is pretty much going to have almost no crash protection, side impact bracing, airbags, etc etc because all that adds a lot of weight. They do state on their website that it is "Designed to automotive crash safety standards", yet they do not say that is has passed DOT standards as yet.

Useful load, they are pretty careful not to say what the useful load is. Useful load is the weight the aircraft can carry. They do not state the empty weight of the aircraft. They do state a MAX Gross takeoff weight of 1320 lbs, and a full fuel load of 120 lbs. They do claim it can carry two passengers. The weight of an FAA "Adult" is 175lbs. So the useful weight is more then likely not much more then 500 lbs. This would put the empty weight at about 820 lbs.

Ok, so just how much impact safety can you build into something that has to be 820 lbs or less? IMO not much. So even if the thing manages to become street legal, I am for one am not driving it on the road, because it will just be CRUSHED by a 3300 lb VW Jetta or Passat, or Lexus or whatever, never mind a bus or a water delivery truck. This thing will more then likely cause more then a few accidents out of sheer novelty as people stair at it rather then pay attention to their driving.

That brings to mind insurance. Now insurance for aircraft is a lot like cars, it is broken down into the Airplane itself and Liability. From the liability POV I don;t think it would be that bad, but from the collision aka Comprehensive POV if I was an insurance company, I would either not insure your airplane while in operation of roads, or I would charge you a massive premium for the reasons I listed above. Any kind of a minor fender bender will render this thing non-airworthy and require a trip to a FBO ( Fixed Base Operator ) to have an A&P have a look at it. And since it is more then likely constructed of mostly composite materials, there are probably no A&P's who can repair it. They will just ground it and tell you to call the factory.

Trust me, I like the idea, I think it is very cool, but as presented there are a whole boatload of problems that will have to be overcome. I much prefer the older idea of a car that you attach the flying part to, then take off to your destination. When you get there, the flying part detaches and is stored until you return to fly back to where ever you came from.

Re:Nice idea, but there are 1 or 2 problems... (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | about 6 years ago | (#25435443)

Sorry I did not mean to post anonymously...

Re:Nice idea, but there are 1 or 2 problems... (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | about 6 years ago | (#25435563)

The thing is, with aircraft, if you graze anything or your aircraft is grazed by anything else, much less dented, the aircraft is instantly grounded until inspected by an A&P ( Airframe and Power Plant mechanic) and certified as being once again airworthy. So parking will be a pit of a problem.

Got cite? IAAP and I've never so much as heard of such a thing. My fellow pilots frequently shrug off such minor damage if it's obvious it hasn't damaged the structure. Maybe they're all just violating the regs (wouldn't be the first time) but it seems unlikely.

Not gonna fly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25435895)

Dis idea ain't gonna fly. Weight is the biggest problem. Planes are already too heavy. What's the extra weight of strong wheels, road-worthy tires, brakes, steering, transmission, differential, driveshafts, CV joints, shocks, springs, extra framework, and suspension? Certainly many hundreds of pounds. No pilot is going to want to carry that much dead weight into the air.

Plus it's going to be a horrible car. Lots of glass, no AC, stiff suspension, terrible cornering, plus a deafening noise level.

Nice if it could be done but the compromises are way too much for any rational pilot or driver to accept.

Treadmills, the real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25436135)

The real question is, can it take off from a treadmill?

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