back to article Fairly realistic flying car offered for 2009 delivery

One of our favourite notions here at Vulture Central is that of the flying car. Ideally this would be a true sci-fi-style job, backed up by an equally puissant automated air-traffic infrastructure. In such a machine you could simply jump into your car outside your house, quietly lift off vertically, fly somewhere even in bad …


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  1. Smallbrainfield
    Paris Hilton

    "Marty, where we're going, we won't need roads...

    ....just a runway. Oh, and you might want to leave that skateboard behind, I don't think we'll get up in the air with that on board."

  2. Jas Gill

    Flying car will never get off the ground !

    Can anyone imagine any government allowing these flying cars to be wildly available to the general public in the current crackdown on civil liberties and state paranoia about Islamic terrorists ? Don't think so.

  3. Daniel

    If they're already under 1,320 lbs

    I'm somewhat surprised they didn't make this into a flying trike; as a three wheeled vehicle weighing 1,749 lbs or less, the Transition would then qualify under motorcycle regulations. This would make NHTSA certification much easier to achieve, as both the regulations and the actual certification process are less stringent than those for passenger vehicles. In addition, as the three wheeled configuration is standard on most flight vehicles, I wouldn't expect it to interfere with FAA certification either.

    Anyway, very nice. Too bad I don't have a couple hundred grand burning a hole in my back pocket; this would make weekend visits to the in-laws much more fun.


  4. Nate
    Thumb Down

    ...but, today's drivers....

    "This would mean that learning to fly a PAV would be no more demanding than getting a regular driver's licence."

    This fills me with a fear no words can describe. I don't know about drivers across the Pond, but here in the US of A, a majority of drivers don't deserve their licenses. But to allow these same people to pilot an aircraft?

    Looks like I'll have to finish building the bomb shelter my grandfather started building in the 50s.

  5. laird cummings

    Not actually insane

    This offering, presuming technical hurdles can be overcome, is actually not insane. It recognizes the problems inherent in flying, in that it requires you find an airfield, and to actually know how to handle an aircraft.

    I still predict any number of flaming wrecks falling from the sky as inexperienced pilots with too much cash for their own good jump on the bandwagon, but I expect there'd be *far* fewer than Moeller's death-trap pipe-dream would produce.

    Now, to see if funding and technical obstacles can be overome. I'm not holding out too much hope, but more for this than others in the past.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Not bad !

    Glad to see you've finally got your head out of the clouds Lewis.

    This is a good, objective article on your pet subject for once.

    Although I keep pouring cold water on the idea, believe it or not, I'd like to see it come true as much as you do.

    Unfortunately I do still have some cold water for you. Suppose, for the sake of argument, it all came to pass. Now just where would you go in such a machine in the UK?

    Using roads for take-off & landing would be prohibited of course. Although I seem to remember Gary Newman scaring a few motorists some years ago.

    A UK county is doing well to have one decent airstrip. There are fewer now than before the 1930's. That means so much ground driving as to make it all pointless.

    Then there is the problem of UK weather which means that the only way to create reliable transport is with full instrument capabilities. Jumping in your aircar and pootling off on a short, foggy autumn day will need a Cat IIIc strip with ground manoevering radar at the other end !!!!!

    Actually the technical difficulties are the very least of the problems.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Pretty sure that when the car first hit the road it was thought too unsafe for pedestrians unless it drove at under 5 mph, and every car was forced to follow a guy holding a red flag. Sounds ridiculous, but a flying car will start off the same way (minus red flag, or course) and in 50 years or so they'll even let women drive them (that's a joke, feminists).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You have a valid point, but I think it was anticipated:

    "It is not intended for use by short-distance commuters, by people running errands, or for any trip through city traffic or under 100 miles. Instead... if you travel between 100 and 500 miles at a stretch,"

    I think the UK probably still does have a least one small local airport for light craft to every few hundred miles, but basically, it's designed for journeys on a scale that are commonplace in the USA but don't really fit into our crowded little island...

  9. Anonymous Coward


    Try parking that thing in a dodgy neighborhood... Do you have any idea how much graffiti would be on the wings?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I found it! What do I win?

    Lovely bmp on page 2, is this a weekly contest now?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    I hope...

    I hope the 'air lanes' are far, far removed from all populated areas... Existing highway 'pilots' are scary and inattentive enough. And what of malfunctions. Instead of 'Check Engine', you get a light and warning tone "Land Immediately!" And I hope Microsoft has nothing to do with the avionics. System crashes are bad enough.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest problem:

    affording the fuel.

  13. James
    Thumb Down

    @...but, today's drivers....


    A huge number of drivers in the UK range from plain incompetent to wilfully dangerous. I'm trying not to imagine the horror of "White Plane Man" and the consequences of whatever the equivalent of jumping red lights would be for aviation >_<

    I can only hope that instead of the speed camera obsessed ground constabulary we have the splendid chaps of the RAF enforce the finer points of aviation law with air-to-air weaponry. Make stopping a traffic miscreant with a stinger really mean something :P



  14. Nazlfrag

    Not quite

    Your pessimism about personal helicopters is premature. Surely you know of the Mosquito?

  15. Carol Yates

    Graffiti on the wings?

    You mean the wings will still be there?

  16. esmith512
    Jobs Halo

    Yes, but does it actually fly?

    All the pictures we've seen display the craft firmly on the ground. Any pictures and experiences of the machine in controlled and sustained flight?

  17. Jon Tocker

    De plane

    Jas: The Terrafugia machine is for PILOTS. Trained pilots, not the average munter who drives a badly maintained car attrociously.

    If the person has managed to get a pilot's licence the likelihood of a stupid crash is diminished (not removed, private and commercial pilots do crash occasionally, but diminished). Trained pilots crash a lot less frequently and tend to be far more responsible than the average moron who was taught to drive by mummy or daddy and replicates their attrocious driving in addition to his/her own contributions to the science of being an idiot behind the wheel...

    The NASA PAV is touted as a fully automated syem for end users which means the dickheaded drivers are merely chauferred passengers and the autopilot is doing everything, so Nate need not worry.

    The thing that fills me with dread about the PAV (which is more likely to get off the ground than anything Moller has dreamed up) is that the average dickhead that can't be trusted to fly a plane is also not likely to keep the aircraft properly maintained so we'll have dangerously unairworthy machines taking to the sky - I don't care how good the GPS-guided autopilot is, there would be nothing it could do when the engine fails or the rust in structural components causes it to come apart in mid air...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... terrorists ... crackdown on civil liberties" ... "Atomic Weapons Establishment" ...

    I spend a lot of time in the area not far from the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield (call it Reading/Basingstoke, if like me you're from North of Watford). Whenever there's a nice visual flying rules day the local peace and quiet is rather horribly disturbed by flying things. Not just the usual Chinook helicopters on the commuter run, but more often and more disturbingly by various light and microlight aircraft flying what strikes me as really rather perilously close to either or both of the AWE sites.

    Are the skies are being monitored so closely that the spooks know these noisy and antisocial folks are just that, and definitely not real terrorists? Or is nobody who should care actually aware that these folks are up there, literally "below the radar"?

  19. Paul


    Any chance of articles that show SI metric measurements alongside the American ones? Miles I can deal with, but lbs mean nothing at all...

  20. Daniel

    NOT A PAV; a pilot's is license required

    While a PAV is something of a frightening notion, the Transition is NOT a PAV, and a pilot's license is required. Granted, it's just the sport pilot license, which is a much, much easier (and less expensive) to acquire license than the usual pilot's license, but it's still a bigger deal than your usual "drive three times around the block and parallel park it" road test you find so often here in the states.


  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Coward

    >You have a valid point, but I think it was anticipated:

    Perhaps, but what then is the justification for creating a hybrid vehicle for moderate length journeys eminently better suited to a pure aircraft?

    A solution looking for a problem to solve. QED

    I'm afraid that aircars are simply a tool for extracting venture capital from gullable investors.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @ Paul

    I'm American, and I'll convert lbs for you. Lbs stands for pound. The UK uses the pound as a form of currency. A pound is therefore about the weight of a bank note.

  23. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    One point totally missed ...

    The indicated price is actually not bad, only about £65k short !

    A big problem for a lot of owners (and potential owners) of conventional aircraft is storing the aircraft. Most airfields have limited (or no) hangar space which means that aircraft are stored outside and/or at great cost. One of the things on my list of features for aircraft to put in the "if I getter a better paid job" list is "foldable and road towable" so I could keep it somewhere else (any old barn, lock up, industrial unit, whatever) and tow it to the airfield - fold out the wings and fly.

    Just the ability of this to leave the airfield to be parked elsewhere would make it very attractive :-)

    One other problem I see - it will need road tax and an MoT test plus road insurance, all on top of all the aviation stuff. But of course, being an aircraft, you will be limited in what you can do yourself maintenance wise.

  24. J


    "The first of these is the one-touch folding wings, which the company believes it has cracked."

    Folding wings? Has cracked? Never a good expression to hear when discussing a flying car, methinks...

  25. Stewart Stevens
    Thumb Up

    It'd work here

    I'd consider buying one in NZ. There'd probably only be 2 / 3 destination airstrips I'd use so I'd want to compare the price with using a traditional light aircraft and keeping a few old bangers at the other end.

    Could it land in a paddock? How would it cope with rough back country roads? I want a hilux version.

  26. Rich
    Paris Hilton


    Possibly they've made it a design criteria for any building containing dangerous stuff in Aldermaston/Burghfield that it can survive a light aircraft impact. I seem to recall the actual sites are Prohibited Areas up to a fairly high altitude - anyone with the aviation chart could check?

  27. Mark

    Looks familiar

    I remember seeing an old vid of something very similar to this (but a bit more basic), must have been from the 1960s or something. They fly in towards the camera, land, take the wings off and fold them up then stow them in about a minute, then they drive off like a hokey looking car with aeroplaney wheels, from what I remember. Didn't catch on then, probably won't now.

  28. James

    I'd rather have a M400 Skycar for pilots

    I also agree on the New Zealand thing - must takeoff and land in paddocks!

    I'm think flying ATV.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    There's no way that 120 pounds of fuel and two average sized Americans will weigh in at under 550 pounds!

  30. Eric Olson
    Thumb Up

    @ The Colonial Power

    Here in the US, this would really be a wonderful tool. With all the land in between population centers, especially in the northern interior portion (Outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, the next closest "large" metro area would be Madison or Des Moines, both at least 3.5 hours away), this would be a dream come true. And out here, there are plenty of local airports designed to handle small jets and other recreational aircraft. You wouldn't need to find a massive population center. If they start carrying a small tank of unleaded, then it's a matter of flying to local podunk airport, filling up, and taking off again. The trip to Omaha might only be 3 hours instead of 6, and you probably could get to Denver in 6 instead of 12.

    Yeah, we have a lot of land here to cover, and it makes for a pain to try to get anywhere.

    Hrm... maybe I need to get my sport pilot's license... and find some spare cash.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flying cars? They've been around for years.

    Ask Mark Webber:

  32. Blain Hamon
    Dead Vulture


    This might actually work if it's not touted as a flying car. It's a drivable aircraft. The difference being that not everyone and their brother will have access to one, it's just for pilots. Think of it as a Cessna that doesn't need to be on a trailer to carry about.

    At $140K+ a pop, you wouldn't dare park it on the streetside anyways. And like they've said, you'd need a pilot's license, and preflight checklist, etc. etc. That weight limit is a toughie, however. It's 2.2 lbs/Kilo, so you're talking 600 Kg.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Was this what you remember ?

    A combination of a bad car and a bad aeroplane as all such compromises are.

    As for cost, well I suggest you folks look up what Cessna is asking for their re-introduced obsolete spam-cans these days.

  34. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    2.2lbs per kilo, right.

    So where do you get your 600Kg from ?

    550lbs useful load, minus 120 for fuel, leaves 430. Divide that by 2.2 and you get barely 200Kg.

    That's barely enough for one average American and his lunch.

  35. Danny

    Darwin Awards

    At least bad drivers will be quickly and efficiently culled from the herd.

    It sounds like a fab idea. Likely huge repercussions for society. Think of the mayhem as the paparazzi chase celebs around the sky. Weekend in Paris? Customs? Pah! Mobile phones won't work properly though (maybe a good thing). How will the speed Taliban persecute the motorists now? No more getting stuck on a windy road behind some dodery airhead towing a caravan...

  36. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down


    You make a highly invalid assumption, that it would ever be sold in the UK.

    1) The Campaign Against Aviation (CAA) would never allow it.

    2) The DVRA would never allow it.

    3) The DoT would never allow it.

    4) If all these hurdles *could* be overcome, the Treasury would tax the sh*t out of it, the airfields it used, the fuel it needed and anyone who stood fairly close to one.

    Welcome to Gordongrad, where the bureaucratic killjoy is king and private aviation is regarded as being equivalent to driving at 140mph through a busy town centre stoned and drunk while making a 'phone call, smoking a cigarette and watching kiddyporn on a portable DVD.

    Flying car? Count yerself lucky that they still let you have one that runs on the ground.

  37. Eduardo


    ..but hardly the Jetsons, innit?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    American units...

    It's a UK news site, so the measurements should be in Imperial. I don't expect to see stones, pounds and ounces when I look at a US site, so I don't see why UK sites should compromise for Americans. Google calculator is your friend. However I was slightly worried by Paul asking for SI as well as American units. Seeing as lbs are UK Imperial units...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "Jas: The Terrafugia machine is for PILOTS. Trained pilots, not the average munter who drives a badly maintained car attrociously."

    I wonder if the company will vet potential owners; will the customer have to produce a current, valid pilot's licence? The high purchase price will put off teenage yobs, but I can envisage Pete Doherty / Keith Moon / Chris Eubank types buying one of these "just to drive around in, honest". They will try and take off when they think people aren't looking, and create an almighty scene.

  40. Graham Bartlett

    @AC and red flags

    Sure, cars were initially mistrusted, and then were accepted. But remember the aeroplane is only 25 years older than the car. That means the "red flag" equivalent for planes should have vanished in, oh, about 1930.

    The fact is that both cars and planes require training (and licenses to prove you've had that training) to drive them, because they're complicated bits of kit which will seriously damage people and property if you can't control them. The training and licensing is roughly proportional to the potential impact (in both sense of the word!) of each in case of an accident. And unless someone can invent the fail-safe aeroplane, that ain't likely to change.

  41. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    I'm not sure about the use case here

    So the intention seems to be that you'll drive this monstrosity on the roads to your nearest airstrip, take off and fly to an airstrip close to your destination, and then drive along the roads for the remainder of the journey.

    Why not drive to the airport, fly a plane, and hire a car at the far end?

  42. Kamal Hashmi


    So when it's going to be on Top Gear?

    And how much of a runway does it need? Grassy field OK?

    What speed is takeoff? So could you do it on a empty road?

  43. Cameron Colley

    RE: American units...


    I don't expect to see stones, pounds and ounces when I look at a US site, so I don't see why UK sites should compromise for Americans.


    Last I heard the US were some of the only people left in the world that _do_ use pounds and ounces (and other imperial measurements) for engineering -- as far as I know the UK uses SI units. Heck, we only just managed to get away from it being illegal to sell in Imperial units over here.

  44. Britt Johnston
    Gates Halo

    Heli still competitive?

    Here is a helicopter at the same half-baked stage for half the price.

    What I like about it is the counterturning rotors, which should help reduce travel sickness. On the other hand, it isn't built for two fat passengers or English rain.

  45. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo


    It would help if the Boeing/US government released their magtech gravity distabler drives to general public

  46. Neil Smith

    American Units??

    But Mr Anonymous Coward - The US does use Pounds and Ounces, and miles...

    Think Quarter Pounder Those lovely Americans don't use Kilos

    The UK uses both fairly interchangeably.

  47. laird cummings

    @AC w/Flags; Ken Hagan

    IRT the flags and early cars issue:

    It's really not an apt comparison at all - In those days, there wasn't a large body of knowledge about the way cars and pople interact. Alternatively, there *is* a large body of knowledge about how aircraft and people mix, and how the general population and private transportation mix.These later two bodies of knowledge strongly suggest that making piloting the province of the masses will result in something rather ugly.

    IRT the usage case:

    Many places here in the states, you can't always 'simply' hire a car at the destination - a vast number of small airfields don't come equiped with rental counters. Many are lucky to have a tower, and I know of close to a dozen local strips that are lucky to have a windsock! - I'm talking about kinds of strips from which crop dusters fly. They're *everywhere,* and would make going, say, out to my in-law's place a snap. Those small fields which *do* have a rental counter, well, if it's manned at all, it's often a far larger a hassle than I'd want to deal with, especially if I could just motor off the taxiway and out the gate instead.

  48. GrahamT
    IT Angle

    Imperial went out with the Empire

    I started learning metric measures at school 50+ years ago; I used cgs units for 'O' and 'A' level and mks/SI for HNC and my degree - surely the schools in the UK haven't stopped teaching metric. How can someone on this site say that a UK site should use imperial measures, when everything in the shops is sold in kgs and litres? (yes, I know we have an exemption for beer and milk)

    In case you haven't noticed, we no longer have an empire. Only one ex-member of the ex-empire has stuck with the Tudor measuring system.


    550lbs = ~250Kgs

    120lbs of fuel is around 55Kgs/60 litres (I made a guess at the specific gravity of petrol) That's 9 stones/13 UK gallons for the Imperial storm troopers.

  49. druck Silver badge

    My solution to driving, flying and everything.

    I got my PPL just over a year ago, it was bloody hard work, but the most enjoyable thing I've ever done. So my solution to driving, flying and everything, would be to get rid of the driving licence and require everyone to get a pilots licence, after which they would be entitled to a free flying car.

    This would mean the vast majority of drivers wouldn't be allowed behind the wheel ever again (and not before time), and forced to use the bus and the train, like the government wants, but without punitive motoring taxes, stupid reduced speed limits and other congestion making measures. As for the skies, there would probably be about double the number of aircraft, but only when the sun is out - the instrument rating is harder still!

  50. Louis Cowan
    Thumb Up

    places to land

    Just a thought - who says landing strips have to be completely above ground? Would be tricky for a human pilot to navigate, but I'm sure there'll be automated systems capable of sub-terranean landings by then :)

  51. Richard Scratcher

    The wings look too short. Will it ever get airborne without a jet engine?

    This vehicle looks very nice but all the videos and photos of it taking off and landing are merely "artists impressions". Okay, they've got a folding wing but will the rest of it fly? Compared to an average light aircraft (e.g. a Cessna), the wingspan seems tiny.

    "Will my aeroplane need a hangar?"

    "Yes, it could lose its shape hanging on a nail."

    -The Goons

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh no not more aeroplanes

    As an inhabitant of ReadingStoke I must concur with the chap above about aircraft round Aldermaston etc but for different reasons. I don't lose sleep about some dingbat flying their paper aeroplane into one of the buildings. having looked on google earth at the multitude of buildings I think the danger of them actually doing any damage to anything nuclear are pretty minimal. I'm in far more danger from the fat nobodys in their company cars on my daily motorway commute.

    What does get on my nerves is that whenever there is any half decent weather round here you get Biggles and his mates doing their magnificent men in their flying machines impression - you know- looping the loop , vertical climbs then cut the engine etc. Not just for 10 minutes either. All___day___long ! Several times this summer I've seen near misses between them and the sodding builders in their helicopters scouting for large back gardens to build a mini housing estate on.

    So what I don't want is some idiot to go an invent a machine to make it easier for any of these flyboys to get in the air. And what if they start giving them out as company cars - please nooooooo! How long would it be before one of these wandered into Heathrow airspace because the Golgafrincham behind the "wheel" was too busy with his Blackberry to notice where he was going....

  53. david mccormick

    I know you need to save weight...

    .... and think about aerodynamics on an aircraft but come on, no wing mirrors?(there's a pun in there somewhere). I shiver at the thought of how you'd even get it onto the motorway in the picture. It must be a case of close your eyes, put your foot down and commend your soul to your deity of choice.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Shock and AWE...

    The AWE sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield are just decoys. These days, the interesting stuff goes on elsewhere away from the protesters and security threats.

  55. foxyshadis

    Obvious stat

    600 Kg is roughly the total mass/weight limit of the plane (1320 pounds), not the carrying capacity. Can't believe so many people missed that.

    It could take off in 5-10 years, if they get the transmission sorted and there are no giant deadly wrecks in the first few years. We Americans will generally pay almost any amount of money to get somewhere faster and get out of traffic, without inconveniences (like changing cars).

  56. Mike
    Thumb Up

    Terrafugia Transition

    For the last four years I have followed the development of the Moller SkyCar. About ten months ago I determined the SkyCar was not likely to ever get off the drawing board and I started searching for another dual purpose land and air vehicle. I found several possibilities on the internet and became very intrigued with the Terrafugia Transition.

    From what I found on the internet, I believed there was a good chance this vehicle could make it to production. In July of this year I went to the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and met the people behind the product, and saw first hand, the operation of the folding wing. I was extremely impressed. So much so, that I made a deposit on the vehicle.

    In September of this year I toured the Terrafugia production facility in Boston and sat in on a meeting of prospective investors. Again, I was extremely impressed. The people developing this vehicle are extremely intelligent and very committed to the development of the Transition.

    I am now an investor in Terrafugia and I am confident my investment will be very profitable. My airframe number is 0034 and I expect to have the vehicle by the spring of 2011 (hopefully sooner). I really believe this vehicle will become the first production roadable aircraft.

  57. Joe

    UK Revenue

    So how long before plod deploys the land-to-air speed radar to help him pay for his version of the Transition.

    And how does he pull you over for exceeding the speed limit / random breath test / Pete doherty type driving offences ?

    A remote engine kill switch is going to go down really well (pun intended). And if we can't use mobile phones while driving, how come pilots can use their radios without having to switch to bluetooth dick-headsets.

    And I know I shouldn't start sentences with 'And'

  58. Anonymous Coward


    make sure to notify them 72 hours before you go to the store in your flying car.

  59. Martin Gregorie

    Sweeping up points

    I just checked an ANO 1:500,000 map: Aldermaston and Burghfield are restricted areas: no aircraft are permitted within the restricted area below 2,400 ft

    @ Graham T (and others) - by international treaty all powered aircraft operate on nautical measurement (knots, nautical miles, feet (altitude) even if the countries they are based in are fully metricated. The only exceptions I know of are gliders.

    I somehow doubt that the Transition will operate off grass and may even be placarded against it. It actually has quite a decent wing area (the wings fold double, so 27 foot span) but the takeoff speed is still quite high (70 kts) and likewise stall is 45 kts. Aircraft have MUCH better suspensions than cars when it comes to soaking up bumps, however from the drawings the Transition looks as if its suspension travel is minimal. So, be prepared for a rough ride when operating from grass.

    If you want a really cool roadable plane, check out the Silence Twister, which has folding wings and lives in a standard Cobra trailer. This means you can keep it in your double garage or driveway.

  60. Diogenies
    Gates Horns

    Uses more fuel than than a hummer ?

    What do they fuel it with & what sort of mpg do they get ?

  61. graeme leggett

    What about an autogyro?

    These things are small light, and the rotor folds away easy. Wouldn't be too hard to match the engine to power the wheels if wanted. Go find Wing Commander Wallis in darkest Norfolk for more info.

  62. Jude Bradley
    Paris Hilton


    It's bad enough with trained pilots flying and causing accidents, (see youtube and type in "NTSB" to see some really scarey flying), how will the general Joe Soap handle it? Definitely not a good idea

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