Flying Car

The idea of a flying car has been around for a long time now.  It really started with the Taylor Aerocar.

Image result for aerocar

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.

Image result for Samson Switchblade

Image result for Samson 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.

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My First Scare While Flying

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.