The idea of a flying car has been around for a long time now. It really started with the Taylor Aerocar.
While it never was put into production the Aerocar did work although the wings and rear fuselage had to be trailered to be available when needed for flight. Six examples of the Taylor Aerocar were built a few remain airworthy today although only one of the six is ever flown.
There have been and are many attempts at building a flying car but the disparate needs of cars and light aeroplanes mean that great compromises have to be made in their design. And they are not cheap due to the design demands and the fact that even if successful they are not likely to sell in the numbers that cars sell.
I believe that of all the new flying car designs today the most likely to succeed is the Samson Motorworks Switchblade.
The Switchblade is a three wheel machine and that means that in Australia and many other countries it would be registered as a motorcycle and would require a motorcycle license to drive it on our roads. As an aircraft the machine would be registered in the Experimental category and would require at least a Private Pilot License (PPL) to operate. It will be sold as a “51% kit” which means that the owner must assemble at least 51% of the machine. This may actually be easier than it sounds as builder assist will be available for the machine.
A two seat machine powered by a 180BHP V4 engine the Switchblade provides excellent performance both on the ground and in the air. It is designed for comfort, safety and speed. Its maximum speed on the ground is 160km/h and its cruising speed in the air is 250km/h. When being driven on roads the fan that drives it in the air is uncoupled from the engine and is completely enclosed except for air intakes and exhaust. There is no danger presented to pedestrians by the propulsion system. The wings while on the ground are completely hidden by being retracted into the body of the machine under the cabin. The empennage also retracts to reduce the length of the machine and render the empennage relatively harmless.
It is clear that the Switchblade has limited ground clearance but this is unlikely to represent any kind of problem because why would anyone drive such a machine over poor roads when it can be flown? It would make no sense to do so. I would expect most owners of the Switchblade to drive it from home to the airport, fly to their destination airport and then drive to the final destination on local roads. It is probable that no-one would ever drive it from town to town nor would it be likely that it would be driven on any but sealed roads.
In fixed-wing aircraft around the world the pilot always sits on the left of the aeroplane. In Australia the driver of a car usually sits on the right side. This will be catered for in the production aeroplane and I expect that driving controls will be on the right side and flying controls on the left side. A very neat solution and better than having both driving and flying controls combined on the left side as will be the case in most countries. There will be examples of the Switchblade in Australia that have both driving and flying controls on both sides. These will be used for flight instruction.
The cabin of the Switchblade will be quite luxurious with leather-covered seats and very modern digital instrumentation. Given the long and very careful design and manufacturing process being used the Switchblade will be a very tough and safe aeroplane. It will last for many years giving excellent service to its owners.
Have you ever had a dream to fly yourself? Many people do have such a dream but never get to try the dream. Reasons why the dream may not be tried are many but often involve things like the assumed expense, assumed difficulty, self-doubt and family matters.
Today learning to fly may not be as expensive as is often assumed because of the existence of Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). Legislation requires that this type of aeroplane can never have more than 2 seats and cannot have a Maximum All Up Weight (MAUW) of 600kg (unless it is an amphibious type in which case the MAUW is 650kg). Within that weight limit is the aeroplane, its fuel, the pilot and passenger and baggage.
Modern LSA are easy to fly and in many cases surprisingly fast. As an excellent example consider the Australian designed and manufactured Jabiru J170-D. This little aeroplane carries two in comfort. It cruises at 100 knots (185 km/h). It burns about 16-19 litres of motor spirit per hour depending on throttle setting. The aeroplane has sufficient fuel tank capacity to fly 850 nautical miles (nm) on full tanks. This means that it would be possible to fly direct from Bankstown Airport to the aerodrome near Wilpena Pound in South Australia (641 nm) in a single flight of about 6 and 3/4 hours. To drive from Sydney to the Wilpena Pound resort would take around 16 hours! Fuel used by the aeroplane would be about 117 litres. How much fuel a motor car might use would depend on the type of car but it would inevitably require refuelling at least twice on the drive which would likely mean burning something in the order of 150+ litres of fuel. It should be noted that travel flights are not usually flown in a straight line but this need not add a lot of miles to any given flight.
It is not all that uncommon for LSA to be flown from Australia to New Zealand and there is no in principal reason why you could not fly all the way from Australia (Darwin) to London in the UK. What an adventure that would be!
You don’t have to own a LSA to be able to do all the flying you may wish to do. Flying schools will generally have them available for private hire (at the solo rate). If you are interested in buying a J170-D the list price is $91,950 for a factory built version. Jabiru aircraft are built in Bundaberg, Qld. There are other models of Jabiru aircraft, some cheaper, some more expensive. And some models can be bought substantially cheaper as kits which you assemble yourself. Some people take years to assemble such kits but in principle it can be done in a month or thereabouts. Australia has quite a few different LSA manufacturers and there is plenty of choice in the kinds of aeroplanes available. And there are many foreign imports available in Australia as well.
Another source for those who may wish to own an LSA is the 2nd hand market. Here you can find new and used LSA at prices from around $30,000 to around $120,000. RAAus has an excellent Aviation Classifieds section where you can find aircraft and other aviation-related items.
Hopefully this page may do something to getting you actually started in realising a dream to fly. If you do perhaps you would let me know? I would be really interested to hear from you and to correspond through and about your flying.
Sydney is a primary control zone because, of course, it is home to Australia’s biggest and busiest airport. But light aircraft pilots can do a spectacular flypast of Sydney by following the light aircraft lane from Bundeena in the south to Long Reef in the north. The route must be flown at below 500′ and over the sea with northbound traffic keeping right and southbound traffic keeping left. All air traffic must remain quite close to the coast and the lane as defined provides for spectacular view of Sydney and the harbour.
Flying north and as you approach a position abeam South Head you can see the sandstone cliffs on which the eastern suburbs are built and you can also see to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. North Head houses what is now a tourist site. It contains the old Quarantine station and cemetery and a still active army barracks. Further north you will pass the northern beaches.
In the ocean as you fly over it is not uncommon to see whales, dolphins, porpoises and sharks. And there are always sailing boats and power boats to be seen in the harbour and outside.
I wish I could include a few photos from the lane but on all my flights I have been the pilot and I never allow myself, when flying, to be distracted by extraneous things. I will try to get a passenger to take some photos next time I fly the lane.
My first scare while flying occurred while I was flying solo using the privilege granted by my Restricted Pilot License. I was carrying out forced landing practice which meant descending without power to a minimum altitude of 250′ before opening the throttle to fly away again. The temperature in the area was fairly high, perhaps around 40 degrees C and I set up an approach to a field that had been freshly ploughed. If I had really lost engine power I would not have chosen such a field because it would prevent a very large risk of the aircraft tumbling over as it’s nose wheel dug in.
As I crossed the boundary of the field I decided it was time to open the throttle and climb away however, full throttle applied the aircraft continued to descend. Just as saw a telephone wire out the right window and was deciding that I would have to attempt an actual landing I flew over the opposite boundary of the field and the aeroplane began, slowly, to climb. By the time I had climbed back to 1,000′ everything was normal again and I returned to the airfield feeling very lucky.
As emergencies go this one does not rate very high but the outcome could have been very different.
I had my first flying lesson in 1963, flying from an all-weather gravel airfield in the north-west of New South Wales (NSW). My instructor was an ex-RAAF pilot who had flown in the South Pacific during WWII and who had been shot down on several occasions. He was a brilliant instructor and near perfect pilot. Teaching in a noisy environment like a light aeroplane is never easy and way back then we did not use headsets to improve communication. It was this instructor who imparted to me the essentials of flying safely and the ability to fly consistently while enjoying the commanding view from the aeroplane.
Flying a light aeroplane is not much like flying in an airliner. You remain much closer to the ground and able to see what is below you in substantial detail. And Australia provides an enormous number of fabulous views. I have flown over the enormous remains of long dead volcanoes, flown low towards cliffs that drop vertically to a valley floor a thousand feet or more. I have flown past Sydney via the light aircraft lane which requires that the aircraft be lower than 500′ above the ocean. As you pass Sydney heads you can see right up the length of the harbour, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have flown west at night into the inky blackness where, once you clear the Blue Mountains there is virtually nothing to see, not even lights except for the occasional town. I have flown north from Sydney, up the coast of NSW, where you are never out of sight of towns at night, with the dark land on your left and the Pacific Ocean on your right.
For me, flying is something that begs to be shared with any who would share it and that is what I will try to do in this blog.
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