Ridiculous-looking flying car approved by FAA

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Next year, those of you with a sport pilot license and $194,000 to burn will be able to buy an honest-to-Doc-Brown flying car. Sadly, the demo vehicle is not remotely as cool looking as a DeLorean. (Pesco says the production model is much slicker, and we'll feature an interview with the industrial designers behind the production vehicle in the coming weeks!)

As with many flying car prototypes I've seen over the years, the aesthetics of this demo version, called the Transition, suffers from Foldupwingitis, making it look like the illicit love child of an Aptera and an airport metal detector while in driving mode. That said, it gets a surprisingly reasonable 30 mpg on the highway (5 gallons per hour in flight). The intended customer seems to be private pilots who want to avoid airport waiting, shuttles and car rentals.

Take-off requires a mere 1/3 of a mile runway, which Popular Science says means you could use your street as an airstrip—but I suspect that may be illegal.

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  1. I think it looks like a combination of:
    – Herbie, “the Love Bug”
    – a cartoon cat
    – and a Ladyshaver

    It is officially The Future. (I’ve been holding off on making that call, but now it’s time.)

  2. Dude, it’s a flying car. I’m not going to cast asparagus on a car that actually flies. If we make it to Mars in a beat-up pasta collander, I will similarly not complain. :)

    1. I heartily agree.

      I don’t care if it looked as horsey and stupidly clunky as the Space Shuttle- I want one too!

  3. What’s the over/under on when the first one gets shot down by an F16 due to suspected terrorism?

  4. While 5 gph sounds nice, the thing’s cruising speed is only 115 mph. It would shave time off a drive to Minneapolis from Detroit (under 6 hours instead of just over 11 hours assuming you hit Chicago at 2am), but my Prius uses far less fuel driving on the road for the same one-way trip. Almost 30 gallons vs. less than 15 gallons (that’s with the AC on and a headwind).

    1. The utility of this machine is very dependent on what your travel path looks like on the ground versus in the air.

      For example I often have to make a business trip Columbus OH – Charleston WV and return. That’s close to a three hour drive when it could be flown in about 70-75 minutes. BIG difference when you have 6-7 hours of work to do at the destination before coming back.

      The real utility killer is that if it’s certified under sport aircraft rules, you can fly it VFR only, even if you have an instrument rating.

    2. Apples to apples you claim your Prius gets 30 mpg on winding roads and the Transition gets 23 mpg in a straigt line (115 mph cruise @ 5 gph). So the fuel advantage could go either way depending upon factors such as the straightness of roads, traffic, hilliness, headwinds, etc. Your one example is just one of infinite scenarios. Enjoy your Prius I’ll go for flying.

      1. Anon @12: In shitty conditions, the Prius gets 45 mpg. That’s not a claim, that’s a repeated observation. That’s half planekinstein’s fuel consumption, same destination, shorter flying vs. driving distance. Honestly, “winding” is the last adjective I would use to describe I-94, I-90 and I-80. On your world headwind = winding road?

  5. Just hope that it doesn’t get dinged in the parking lot; any repairs would have to go through an FAA approved process including inspection and re-certification…

  6. I have to agree with the posters who can distinguish fact (Transition) from fiction (Time-traveling Delorean) and who can distinguish flying from time travel. I want a flying car, too; even if the wings do fold up.

  7. What’s the deductible on the insurance claim when you bump into another car at 5mph?

  8. *sigh* I can’t wait to see the crashes of the future. Doesn’t make me want to drive one of these any less- I just hope car behavior doesn’t translate into flight behavior.

  9. As long as it has road tax and you’re not in a controlled-to-ground-level area (ie, right next to an airport or military base), I don’t see any reason why it would be illegal to take off on your street. In the vast majority of places, you need no permission to engage in flight in this near-to-ground airspace (which can be anything from a few hundred to a few thousand feet), beyond your license to operate a craft. That’s why it’s legal to fly a kite.

  10. I can just see the fun if they ever let the kind of people who can’t sort out road conditions in a position where wind and air pressure are factors as well.

  11. “we’ll feature an interview with the industrial designers behind the production vehicle in the coming weeks!”

    And I’m quite sure they will love that you called the design of their product ” Ridiculous-looking ”

  12. asuffield- Well the takeoff speed probably exceeds the speed limit, and it CERTAINLY exceeds legal width with the wings unfolded. So you may be legal once you’re in the air, but you’ve certainly broken the law while on the ground.

  13. This thing is full of fail. It’s not a flying car, it’s a roadable airplane. It didn’t succeed in the 50’s, it’s not going to succeed now.

    As somebody on Jalopnik said last week, for that kind of money, you can buy a really nice airplane and a please-don’t-think-I’m-a-dick-for-driving-this type car for either end of your commute.

    1. It didn’t succeed in the 50’s, it’s not going to succeed now.

      Because the 50s were the pinnacle of aviation technology? I’m not saying it’s not a hard problem–see below–but seriously?

      Responding to the original post: I’m not an aeronautical engineer, but I think that calling this “ridiculous-looking” because of what the wings look like when it’s in car mode is sort of like calling a helicopter “ridiculous-looking” because it doesn’t look like a fixed-wing aircraft.

      My understanding, from those who know more aeronautics than I do, is that it’s hard to build something that functions well as a car on the street and as an aircraft; they impose different requirements that are hard to reconcile. (The most obvious: planes are supposed to get lift when they go fast, cars are supposed to stay firmly on the ground regardless of how fast they’re going.)

      Sure, the folded wings stick up. Where would you expect them to go? Until nanotechnology is at the point where we can reliably extrude wings when we want them (and reabsorb them when we don’t), or until we can get materials that would allow us to build wings that can collapse inside themselves like a series of nesting dolls, I suspect that aircraft with folding wings are going to look something like this. *shrug*

      1. Well, actually…the major advances since the 50’s have been in avionics (ie, cockpit displays,) plus some improvements in engines. And I guess some new fuselage materials. But I don’t think anything has been developed since then that makes this possible now but impossible then.

  14. Someone once said “Everyone knows that it’s not the future until we have flying cars.” Welcome to the future!

  15. The FAA is only half of the equation. How does the NHTSA feel about having this thing on our roads?

  16. There is nothing ridiculous about the NACA duct!
    You could put a NACA duct on a Yugo and instantly transform it into a billion dollar fighter jet.

  17. Flying cars always make me thing of tne (AVE) Mizar, a flying rock if I ever saw one, built on a Ford Pinto of all things.
    THe inventor and pilot were killed when a prototype model crashed.

  18. It’s a floor wax. It’s a desert topping! Don’t fight, it’s both!

    Whether you make a car that’s a plane or a plane that’s a car, you end up with the same thing, a crappy car that’s also a crappy plane.

    And at least this one has actual wings, with actual control surfaces, unlike the king of vaporware Moller Sky-Car.

  19. I like that it has a full vehicle parachute. Doesn’t make me feel any safer, but I’d still fly in one.

  20. It must get tiring to be asked: “Oh my God! Did you crash?” jokingly after each landing.

  21. Sadly, the demo vehicle is not remotely as cool looking as a DeLorean.

    We are not in agreement on this. (Especially if you can get it in black or red.)

  22. I think the most important question is, do you have to stop the car and get out to convert if from driving mode to flying mode? Or can I just be cruising down the street, hit a button, have the wings extend, and take off without ever having to take my foot off the gas?

    Wait, does it have a gas petal? Are the controls like that of a car, or a plane? or does it have both?

    And how horrible are the blind spots in driving mode?

    I also agree with the above, its a roadable plane, not a flying car.

  23. First, I want to say that my brother-in-law has an Amphicar and everyone in the family thinks he’s the coolest guy in the family because of that, among other reasons. Wait’ll you’ve got one around, see if it feels goofy then.

    Two, some people will do anything to get their asses up in the air (no not like that) and I am not going to scoff at anything they might do it in, period. Who among us has never once felt A Bit Uncertain while doing something as lame as standing a few feet up on a ladder much less FLYING A SMALL CAR INTO THE AIR. And you laugh at the car they do it in? Please.

  24. It has bit of the 1938 Citroen 15CV look to it, and I could see OddJob racing down the street after it, (But only if it were driven/piloted by Connery,Dalton or Craig, and maybe in silver, not white). So. I’m all good.

  25. How cute. A flying car. Have you ever been in a small plane crash? I survived a landing without landing gear and believe me, there’s nothing fun about it. There’s nothing that instills confidence in me with this thing either. Can you imagine the carnage if suddenly there were thousands of these cars flying around…pilots texting, etc? We can’t even get it right on the ground let alone in the air. Flying is another whole ballgame best left to the professionals.

    1. There are plenty of amateur pilots flying planes that can’t be driven as cars already. What’s the difference? It’s just another kind of plane.

  26. As a former Cadillac Motor Company employee, I am sensitive to the esthetics of car designing.
    You are cordially invited to see my StrongMobile Flying Car Project at http://www.strongware.com/dragon. You can view a 2-minute video of my full-size mockup model and consider the part about “Busting the Myths”.
    I would greatly appreciate any opinions or recommendations you may care to offer.

    Rich Strong (Major,USAF,Retired)

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