Sky Commuter vehicle prototype for sale

A concept "Sky Commuter aircraft" that absorbed $6 mil in startup capital is for sale on eBay. The seller appears to be one of the engineers, and the long description associated with the listing is a heartbreaking (and eccentrically punctuated) story of a beautiful, dashed dream:

The development of this advanced technology and project started back in the mid 1980's. Design and engineering was created by Boeing engineer's in Arlington Washington. Some 60 investors and well over $6,000.000.00 in R&D and production yielded only (3) concept test ships before the plant was shut down for reasons not listed here. The sad end was all and anything that was in the hangar was taken and or destroyed. This sole example of this technology, Advancements and investments are present and was saved in this single craft. The ship was not at the base location at the time or it to would have been destroyed...

In a brief description of the ship: It has a operational electric gas assisted lexan bubble canopy. Electric controled directional driving and landing lights. Electric Joystick and two foot pedals on both side and the craft was meant to be controlled from either seat. Advanced front dash shell made of Carbonfiber and Kevlar. Rear engine and electronics bay accessible by tilting seats forward and removing the back panel. (3) huge 3 foot lifting fans CCW/CW rotation. This was made to take off in vertical fight and land. It can be landed on water and float like a boat and take off of water. The targeted dream was to lift above it all and not deal with the daily gridlock traffic. Nearly at the finish line it all came to a abrupt stop and all the years and investment and R&D and production, Remains in this one craft shown here.

Link (Thanks, Bill!)


  1. To understand why this thing will have a difficult time flying, you only need to look at the pentagon and their spending countless millions on VTOL and the results of that. The VTOL aircraft the military have are still fraught with problems, with the exception of the F-35B which is a STVOL.

    I think if anyone wants to build a practical VTOL, the F-35B is what you want to get design ideas from, not this craft. The only thing this thing is good for is nolvety, museum purposes.

  2. Thank god this never happened. The accidents, the massive extra contribution to climate change.

    It should be put in a museum with the Flat Earth Society’s manifesto, the Spruce Goose, the Ford Edsel, and Branson’s absurd spacecraft project.

  3. “Nearly at the finish line it all came to a abrupt stop ”

    Because, like everyone else trying to build something like this, they found that it didn’t work above ground effect altitudes.

  4. True enough, Ray. I would think 1980’s electronics and the ducted fan approach was defeated by stability problems as much as just staying up.

    For everyone else waiting for a flying car… keep watching movies and dreaming, or do like I do and fly a _wing_. You know, an airplane.


  5. I say that a good computer system could control the instability. They had stability issues the wedge shaped aircraft (ex: stealth bomber) until they got in some good computer controls.

  6. @Ted
    Thank god people do try even “crazy” ideas.

    In our reality if you don’t run – you’re history.
    Breaking even is not good enough.

    Tomorrow space tourism, next week revolution in space propulsion, next month homo sapiens living on more than one planet. Sky commuter might be a failure, but only by taking chances you can get anywhere.
    We’d definetely not change climate living in caves for average of 20 years.
    Glory to Neandertals who died out in the name of the Planet.

  7. @7: True, evolutionary biologists would probably agree that we share a common ancestor with “Ted”, but it will take some significant time and study to determine when the two species actually split off from each other.

    For posterity’s sake, I’ll try to leave a legible fossil record.

  8. While I bet one would have been “fun”, it’s a hilariously, blunderously stupid idea. Never mind the pinhead idea of ‘escaping traffic’, the lack of foresight is truly awe-inspiring.

    Talk about more money than sense…

    At least military VTOL tech KNOWS they consume more energy than God just to sit still.

    And it’s not even as cool (or as potentially unstable as) jet packs. We won’t even see this thing on Venture Brothers.

  9. I think the stupidest thing about this is the fact that it would have been destroyed if it had been on site at the time. WHY destroy them? Some ridiculous imperative of bankruptcy laws? The possibility of industry espionage? Ultimately they nearly destroyed an incredibly interesting piece of history, the kind of thing we might’ve been looking at photos of, and arguing whether it was real or an internet/photoshop prank.

    I don’t necessarily think it was a stupid idea– most people thought it was impossible to send a man to the moon, even as late as the 1940’s. You never know what is possible until you try, and even failed experiments yield valuable knowledge.

  10. That thing has so many stability issues in its design, at least 3 major ones that I can see. No way they compensated for them with 20-year-old technology, much less in a package that small.

    It is more of an example of why we didn’t have flying cares in the 80’s and 90’s.

    If it can get off the ground, the only sensible thing to do would be to get it back on the ground before attaining 10 feet and before applying any forward thrust.

  11. So, let’s see. As we read down the auction page from the original listing through the amendments we encounter these statements.

    “It can be landed on water and float like a boat and take off of water.”

    “I want to make it clear that it is possible to lift off and get off the ground.”

    “It was not brought to the lift off testing stage as it was the PR show ship … It looks as if it did indeed have motors in it but there are none now.”

    So, Agnot, no worries. This is just a rich boy’s toy, all show and no go. And I don’t trust the seller.

  12. Looks like an AMC product – the final evolution of the Pacer.

    And I bet it’s full of eels. Eels on a motherf^ckin’ hovercraft!

  13. Yeah, I read up on the auction. Lots of seemingly contradictory statements. Lots about getting off the ground but at one point he admits it is seriously unstable.

    A team member was from Boeing? Hmm . . ..

    Ditch the fancy fins and give it four fans, not three, and get them up at least as high as the design’s center of gravity . . ..

    To avoid rolls at altitudes above “ground effect,” each of those fans needs the ability to automatically double, at least, the rpm of the others at any level of operation and sustain it without issues.

    The body mind as well be as wide as the rear fans. Then they could have designed in some aerodynamics to assist forward thrust rather then spending energy collecting air from the sides and rear.

    The thruster intake should be near the center of the vehicle.

    It will definitely state of the art materials and a good computer and redundant computer backups.

    Then, with everything else I am not qualified to think of, it might have some sort of a future.

  14. The VTOL flying car is too cool an idea for people to give up on it. I think Paul Moller is still trying, although his car can’t do much more than hover at low altitudes either. (The flying-saucer-shaped one did go above ground effect, but it’s pretty much just a seat surrounded by engines, i.e. not a very practical transport from the point of view of payload or fuel efficiency). Besides, as someone wise has once said, “The way people drive, you want them all FLYING?!”. Moller bypasses this by suggesting that the aircraft be completely computer-controlled, like modern UAVs where you select a point on a map and it just goes there by autopilot. I’m not sure I’d like to be transported by a vehicle I could not operate myself in the case of an autopilot failure…

    And while VTOL does have a painful almost-60-year history with many many failed prototypes, many crashes, and many lives lost, the X/F-35 is far from its first success, and modern materials and computer controls give VTOL technologies what I think could be a bright future. The Harrier has been in service for a long time. Tilt-rotors had some bumpy years but the V-22 is now in Iraq (and its speed, range, altitude, and payload, all wildly exceed those of the CH-46 it is replacing). Soon the JSF will be flown by many air forces all over the world. The Bell-Augusta 609 will soon make tilt-rotor technology (i.e. helicopter-like VTOL but much greater range and speed) available to most of the functions currently dominated by helicopters such as air ambulances, law enforcement, news gathering, short-distance executive transport, and transport of people and supplies to remote locations, oil rigs, etc. And with the technologies being developed in the A160 program, conventional helicopters could, in 10 or 20 years, see drastic improvements in fuel economy, giving them greater range and endurance almost matching those of equivalent-sized airplanes.

    At least two designers have realized that, if a successful flying car is at all possible, then VTOL is probably not the way to go. We’ll see how they do. I’m not really sure why they think they’ll do any better than similar past efforts, but who knows.

    It’s like the personal platform (Bell Rocketpack, Hiller Platform, DeLackner HZ-1 AeroCycle, XFV Exoskeleton): When you make an aircraft small enough to be a convenient part of a normal person’s life (i.e. not requiring long runways or huge hangars), this will probably make it VERY fuel-inefficient, and also very expensive (and probably unreliable) since the components have to be built to be small, precisely shaped, tough, and light. So the only aircraft I think we will see in a lot of garages are builders’ RV kitplanes and the like. Then again, I could be wrong.

    As for this particular auction… I’ve been doing enough research about VTOL technology (such as uncovering video footage and design details of pretty much all of these) that I really think I would have heard of the vehicle in this auction if it had even shown any serious potential, or if anyone as big as Boeing had ever had something to do with it. But, despite (or perhaps because of) my arrogance, I guess it’s possible there might be something out there I missed.

    You can see why my friends try to stay away from bringing up aviation when I’m in the room ;)

  15. Does anyone have the backstory on what the actual reasons for termination of this venture were? Okay, sure, they ran out of money and couldn’t convince investors to give them more, but there seems to be some cloak and dagger to it if the only surviving example exists solely through it being out for a cup of coffee at the time the hit squad wiped out the lab…

  16. How to tell if there is a conspiracy:

    Look elsewhere.

    If a flying car hasn’t emerged from Finland,China, New Zealand, Japan, Russia…. well, I guess the problems are technical and not political.

  17. VTOL is not insurmountable. They did it back in the 60’s with the XC-142. Technically, this tilt wing was very successful. They actually did the control mixing with analog mechanical components!

    (Yes, something like roll has two different meanings between VTOL and conventional modes, and there was continuous mixing between the two, all done with gears, cams, and levers. And it *worked*!)

    The remaining problems: noise. A larger number of smaller rotors is harder to quiet than one larger one. Also, auto-rotation is not yet a viable backup option for tilt wings, though the conventional gliding mode is available to tilt wing designs like the XC-142, but not to the V-22 Osprey.

  18. Let’s not forget about the new Joint Strike Fighter F-35. VTOL is one of the 5 options of which any delivery package gets 4.

    The VTOL option includes a fan box behind the cockpit. Also, the single engine jet exhaust tilts down to assist the fan.

    This is a somewhat different approach than the Harrier or the Osprey.

  19. The mysterious reason why we all don’t have a flying car is because they were shut down by the government NSA, CIA its right in front of all of you. It works good from the test flights they showed on A*E and discovery. If the company wasn’t shutdown they would of got all the bug’s out trust me. I know technology well. If the invention is deemed UFO type or Space Age It will be destroyed along with all plans to build them. Something to do with national security ACT. I seen this over and over. The government want you all to be retarded so won,t see what they are doing to you. They are holding us back from the future , the future is now and the technology is here already. The more of us people the more the government can’t do squat.

  20. This is the brain child of my uncle Fred Barker.
    He was the founder of Flight Innovations Inc.
    I sat in this vehicle numerous times as a kid.
    I never knew what happened to this project and decided to search online when I came across this posting. It’s pretty cool to see that people are still talking about it!

  21. My father and I bought shares of stock in Flight Innovations when your Uncle, Fred Barker, was president. Do you know if the company dissolved? I was going to throw the stock certificate away but thought I should ask before I throw it away. I was trying to find your uncle and came across your post.


  22. I’m surprised in all this discussion how little mention there has been of the highly successful implementation of VTOL in the Harrier jump jet:-

    The first prototype was demonstrated on 21st October 1960 and over the years various versions have been anything but sluggish with a top speed of 730 mph.

    To witness a Harrier take off vertically, hover or fly backward of sidewards is quite phenomenal. The Sea Harrier has been a mainstay UK & US Navy air craft for over 25 years – and still holds its own.

Comments are closed.