Dude, Where’s Our Flying Car?
Are we to blame scientists that are too busy inventing other things? Car companies that failed to realize our pipedream? To that we say, we don’t know. But we’re pretty sure that if Albert Einstein had been alive today, the man would’ve built us a working flying car that could double as a waffle maker. The question remains, is it is really that hard to make one?
Our thirst for the truth led us to try and dig up some information about flying cars. Here’s what we found.
Though the first patent for flying car was given back in 1918, many attempts to build commercial flying cars have failed due to budget constraint — among other things. It seems our best hope to see flying cars anytime soon in our highway rests on the shoulder of a start-up aeronautic company called Terrafugia.
Created by a group of MIT alums, they have finished the prototype production of the first automated folding wing for a light sport aircraft. Hmm, can we safely translate that into layman’s term as flying cars? Anyway, the company plans to call this aero-auto hybrid as the Transition.
According to Mracek Dietrich, the company’s engineer and chief operating officer, two of the biggest challenges that the team faced in designing the Transition were the wings and the power train. However, they seem to have succeeded designing a wing that will be durable enough for a seamless and quick transformation from car to plane and back. The pilot can easily enfold or extend the wings with a push of a button in the cockpit. Researchers have opened and closed the wings for the equivalent of three to five years of usage with great success — so it seems durability will not be an issue.
As for the power train, they are aiming to build one that can use only one engine for both on the ground and in the air. The power train will be designed to run on a tank of super unleaded gasoline, so that the car pilots (we like how this sounds) can fill it up easily at any gas station. A mechanism to transfer power from the propeller to the wheels and back has been devised — and the team is trying to make sure that the transition can be kept smooth.
The next great challenge is to keep the Transition as reliable, simple and lightweight as possible. Not only should it be light enough to fly, but it should also meet FAA regulations on keeping the vehicle less than 1,320 pounds; then there’s the maximum level speed regulation that Transition must meet, which is 138 miles per hour. If that’s not challenging enough, the team must also meet regulatory requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
And what of the cost to get one of these Transitions (when and if it’s available)? Terrafugia plans to charge you a cool $194,000 per flying car. Plus, you would also have to be a licensed pilot if you want to take it for a spin in the United States. The production of Transition is expected to wrap up in 2011.
Readers; like any sitcoms and cartoons on TV, and of course being the pessimistic optimists that we are, we always try to end all our all articles on a positive note. Hoping that there’s some lesson that we could all learn. This one is no different. You see, if history has taught us anything, nothing is too impossible and impractical to achieve. But not in the case of flying cars. Really, we’ve been reading reports of how flying cars were ready to take off for like ever.