Looks like Terrafugia and PAL-V have some company in an ongoing effort to produce commercial street legal aircraft known simply as flying cars. A prototype of the Aeromobil flying car, created by a Slovak designer, recently took to the skies.
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Štefan Klein is Aeromobil‘s cofounder and chief designer. In the past he's worked on projects for Audi, BMW and Volkswagen at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, according to his bio. Klein began developing the first Aeromobil in the early 1990s and this fall his Aeromobil 2.5 prototype went on a test flight in Slovakia, shown in this video.
This steel and carbon-fiber coated prototype has unfolding wings, a bit like the Terrafugia Transition. It sports a Rotax 912 engine that helps it go 124 mph and a range of 430 miles, AVWeb's Mary Grady reported. The Aeromobil 2.5 also weighs 992 pounds which, as Gizmag's Francis X Govers III pointed out, makes it lighter than a Ford Fiesta. Like a Fiesta, you could fill up at a gas station since this flying car doesn't require special aviation fuel. The small size, like the Dutch PAL-V motorcycle-gyrocopter, means the Aeromobil fits into a standard parking spot.
Klein has said he imagines a future where it takes mere seconds to go from driving to flying out of an airport. He pictures landing flying cars on dedicated grass areas next to highways. "Does that sound a little sci-fi?" he told the car magazine Auto SME (a Google-assisted translation from Slovak to English). "Sure, but look at the United States. Individual airlines are starting to pay close attention and put resources into small airports."
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Currently the company is looking for investors and partners. Watching the video of their prototype's sort of shaky test flight, I'd hesitate to jump into one right now. After all, as many experts caution, combining aircraft and road vehicles means making sacrifices in performance. But as more serious competition enters the marketplace, the more likely street legal aircraft will become a real market. I look forward to seeing a wider array of vehicles that could make air travel easier and help us avoid burning jet fuel.
A commercial flying car with impeccable safety, environmental responsibility and decent features is going to happen. The question becomes who will be behind the wheel when it does.
Photo: The Aeromobil 2.5 prototype prepares for a test flight this fall. Credit: Aeromobil.