Roadable Aircraft History
In the last 100 years there have been more than 70 attempts to develop a successful Flying Car ‘ clearly the concept has been enduringly attractive. Very few attempts have met with any technical success, however, and those that actually worked to any extent had poor performance as a car or a plane ‘ or both.
The difficulties of designing a successful Flying Car are enormous. The design requirements of a ground vehicle are so different to those of an airplane, that the task of trying to marry the two sets of requirements together into one craft presents many challenges.
An analysis of the history shows that most designs compromise the road vehicle mode in order to provide a flyable aircraft. These vehicles generally have an impractical shape and size, making them unable to fit in with other road traffic. Many have unsafe design concepts like exposed control surfaces and avionics sensors ‘ some even propose using a propeller for propulsion on the road!
Several other designs compromise the aircraft mode. This invariably results in an impractical flying machine that cannot achieve desirable, or even acceptable flight characteristics ‘ the most common problem being that of insufficient wing area.
Some designs proposes the use of powered lift to give vertical take off and landing (VTOL) capability. With the exponential increase in complexity and power requirement of a VTOL craft, it is not surprising that all attempts of this kind of craft have failed. Even though many SciFi movies show cars, without wings, hovering and flying, they require ‘antigravity’ and ‘zero thrust propulsion’ to work ‘ it is never going to be a practical proposition with aviation technology. For safety reasons alone, aircraft operations must be separated from the general public. VTOL aircraft must operate out of airfields like other airplanes and, therefore, are left with the same problem as conventional aircraft.
Because of the technical difficulties inherent in the Flying Car concept, some designers have ‘fudged’ certain engineering aspects in order to make it at least ‘look like’ they have solved the problems. As a result, there are some designs that feature impossible arrangements, like serious structural interferences ‘ even telescoping elements that are all the same size.
Last, almost all of the designs failed to match the aesthetic expectations of a sophisticated consumer. This point is not to be easily dismissed, even though form must of necessity follow function, there are enumerable design choices along the way. In the end, a design that looks right is usually a design that works right ‘ making aesthetic sensibilities a valid measure of worth.
The history of the flying car is of course still being written. Technology is advancing and there are options available to modern designers that did not exist in the past and, apart from Skyblazer, there are at least five such projects currently being attempted. Each of these designs is worthy of critical examination. For more information ypu may visit some interesting sites by going to the Links page.