A flying car is a type of personal air vehicle or roadable aircraft that provides door-to-door transportation by both ground and air. The term "flying car" is also sometimes used to include hovercars.
Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the twentieth century using a variety of flight technologies and some have true VTOL performance, but no flying car has yet reached production status.
Their appearance is often predicted by futurologists, with their failure ever to reach production leading to the catchphrase, "Where's my flying car?"
In 1926, Henry Ford displayed an experimental single-seat aeroplane that he called the "sky flivver". The project was abandoned two years later when a distance-record attempt flight crashed, killing the pilot. The Flivver was not a flying car at all, but it did get press attention at the time, exciting the public that they would have a mass-produced affordable airplane product that would be made, marketed, sold, and maintained just like an automobile. The airplane was to be as commonplace in the future as the Model T of the time.
In 1940, Henry Ford famously predicted: "Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.”
The Aerocar designed and built by Molt Taylor made a successful flight in December 1949, and in following years versions underwent a series of road and flying tests. Chuck Berry featured the concept in his 1956 song "You Can't Catch Me", and in December 1956 the Civil Aviation Authority approved the design for mass production, but despite wide publicity and an improved version produced in 1989, Taylor did not succeed in getting the flying car into production.
In the period between 1956 - 1958, Ford's Advanced Design studio built the Volante Tri-Athodyne, a 3/8 scale concept car model. It was designed to have three ducted fans, each with their own motor, that would lift it off the ground and move it through the air. In public relation release, Ford noted that "the day where there will be an aero-car in every garage is still some time off", but added that "the Volante indicates one direction that the styling of such a vehicle would take".
In 1957, Popular Mechanics reported that Hiller Helicopters was developing a ducted-fan aircraft that would be easier to fly than helicopters, and should cost a lot less. Hiller engineers expected that this type of an aircraft would become the basis for a whole family of special-purpose aircraft.
In 1956, the US Army's Transportation Research Command began an investigation into "flying jeeps", ducted-fan-based aircraft that were envisioned to be smaller and easier to fly than helicopters. In 1957, Chrysler, Curtiss-Wright, and Piasecki were assigned contracts for building and delivery of prototypes. They all delivered their prototypes; however, Piasecki's VZ-8 was the most successful of the three. While it would normally operate close to the ground, it was capable of flying to several thousand feet, proving to be stable in flight. Nonetheless, the Army decided that the "Flying Jeep concept [was] unsuitable for the modern battlefield", and concentrated on the development of conventional helicopters. In addition to the army contract, Piasecki was developing the Sky Car, a modified version of its VZ-8 for civilian use.
In the mid-1980s, former Boeing engineer, Fred Barker, founded Flight Innovations Inc. and began the development of the Sky Commuter, a small duct fans-based VTOL aircraft. It was a compact, 14-foot-long (4.3 m) two-passenger and was made primarily of composite materials. In 2008, the remaining prototype was sold for £86k on eBay.
|Production Prototype of Terrafugia Transition at the N.Y. Int'l Auto Show in April 2012|
|First flight||5 March 2009|
|Introduction||In development since 2006, prototype unveiled in 2009|
In 1942, the Soviet armed forces experimented with a gliding tank, the Antonov A-40, but it was not capable of flying on its own.
AeroMobil currently fly-tests a prototype that obtained Slovak ultralight certification. When the final product will be available or how much it will cost is not yet specified.
Urban Aeronautics' X-Hawk is a VTOL turbojet powered aircraft announced in 2006 with a first flight planned for 2009. It was intended to operate much like a tandem rotor helicopter, but with ducted fans rather than exposed rotors. The requisite decrease in rotor size would also decrease fuel efficiency. The X-Hawk was being promoted for rescue and utility functions. As of 2013, no flights had been reported.
Terrafugia have a flying road vehicle, the Terrafugia Transition On 7 May 2013, Terrafugia announced the TF-X, a plug-in hybrid tilt-rotor vehicle that would be the first fully autonomous flying car. It would have a range of 500 miles (800 km) per flight and batteries are rechargeable by the engine. Development of TF-X is expected to last 8–12 years, which means it will not come to market before 2021–2025.
The Moller Skycar M400 is a prototype personal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft which is powered by four pairs of in-tandem Wankel rotary engines, and is approaching the problems of satellite-navigation, incorporated in the proposed Small Aircraft Transportation System. Moller also advises that, currently, the Skycar would only be allowed to fly from airports & heliports. The Skycar M400 has tiny wheels and no road capability at all. Moller has been developing VTOL craft since the late 1960s, but no Moller vehicle has ever achieved free flight out of ground effect. The proposed Autovolantor model has an all-electric version powered by Altairnano batteries.
The Xplorair PX200 was a French project of single-seater VTOL aircraft without rotating airfoil, relying on the Coandă effect and using an array of small jet engines called thermoreactors embedded within tiltwings' body. Announced in 2007, the project has been funded by the Government of France and was supported by various aerospace firms. A full-scale drone was scheduled for flight at Paris Air Show 2017, followed by the commercialization of a single-seater flying car in the years after.
The SkyRider X2R is a prototype of a flying car developed by MACRO Industries, Inc. It is lighter than the Moller Skycar which has never successfully flown untethered.
Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk Corporation are developing flying cars.
A practical flying car must be capable of safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly operation both on public roads and in the air. For widespread adoption it must also be able to fly without a qualified pilot at the controls and come at affordable purchase and running costs.
Many types of aircraft technologies and form factors have been tried. The simplest and earliest approach was to give a driveable car added, bolt-on fixed flying surfaces and propeller. However such a design must either tow its removable parts on a separate trailer behind it, or return to its last landing point before taking off again. Other conventional takeoff fixed-wing designs include folding wings, which the car carries with it when on the road.
Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) designs include rotorcraft with folding blades, as well as ducted-fan and tiltrotor vehicles. Most design concepts have inherent problems. Ducted-fan aircraft such as the Moller Skycar tend to easily lose stability and have been unable to travel at greater than 30–40 knots. Tiltrotors, such as the V-22 Osprey convertiplane, are generally noisy. To date, no vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle has ever demonstrated adequate road capabilities.
Although statistically, commercial flying is much safer than driving, unlike commercial planes personal flying cars might not have as many safety checks and their pilots would not be as well trained. Humans already have problems with the aspect of driving in two dimensions (forward and backwards, side to side), adding in the up and down aspect would make "driving" or flying as it would be, much more difficult; however, this problem might be solved via the sole use of self-flying and self-driving cars. In mid-air collisions and mechanical failures, the aircraft could fall from the sky or go through an emergency landing, resulting in deaths and property damage. In addition, poor weather conditions, such as low air density, lightning storms and heavy rain, snow or fog could be challenging and affect the aircraft's aerodynamics.
A major problem, which increases rapidly with wider adoption, is the risk of mid-air collisions. Another is the unscheduled or emergency landing of a flying car on an unprepared location beneath, including the possibility of accident debris. Regulatory regimes are being developed in anticipation of a large increase in the numbers of roadable aircraft and personal air vehicles in the near future, and compliance with these regimes will be necessary for safe flight.
Mechanically, the challenges of flight are so strict that every opportunity must be taken to keep weight to a minimum and a typical airframe is lightweight and easily damaged. On the other hand a road vehicle must be able to withstand significant impact loads from casual incidents as well as low-speed and high-speed impacts, and the high strength this demands can add considerable weight. A practical flying car must be both strong enough to pass road safety standards and light enough to fly.
A flying car capable of widespread use must operate safely within a heavily populated urban environment. The lift and propulsion systems must be quiet, have safety shrouds around all moving parts such as rotors, and must not create excessive pollution.
A basic flying car requires the person at the controls to be both a qualified road driver and aircraft pilot. This is impractical for the majority of people and so wider adoption will require computer systems to de-skill piloting. These include aircraft manoeuvring, navigation and emergency procedures, all in potentially crowded airspace. Fly-by-wire computers can also make up for any deficiencies in flight dynamics, such as stability. A practical flying car may need to be a fully autonomous vehicle in which people are present only as passengers.
The need for the propulsion system to be both small and powerful can at present only be met using advanced and expensive technologies. The cost of manufacture could therefore be as much as 10 million dollars.
Flying cars would be used for shorter distances, at higher frequency, and at lower speeds and lower altitudes than conventional passenger aircraft. However optimal fuel efficiency for airplanes is obtained at high altitudes and high subsonic speeds, so a flying car's energy efficiency would be low compared to a conventional aircraft. Similarly, the flying car's road performance would be compromised by the requirements of flight, so it would be less economical than a conventional motor car as well.
Where's my flying car?
The flying car was and remains a common feature of conceptions of the future, including imagined near futures such as those of the 21st century. Complaints of the non-existence of flying cars have become nearly idiomatic as expressions of disappointment in the failure of the present to measure up to the glory of past predictions.
In 1999 the U.S. journalist Gail Collins noted:
Here we are, less than a month until the turn of the millennium, and what I want to know is, what happened to the flying cars? We're about to become Americans of the 21st century. People have been predicting what we'd be like for more than 100 years, and our accoutrements don't entirely live up to expectations. (...) Our failure to produce flying cars seems like a particular betrayal since it was so central to our image.
As a result, flying cars have been referred to jokingly with the question "Where's my flying car?", emblematic of the supposed failure of modern technology to match futuristic visions that were promoted in earlier decades.
Aired on 8 January 1998, Seinfeld's 167th episode, "The Dealership", featured George and Jerry complaining about the non-existence of the flying cars. Jerry says, "It's like we're living in the '50s here."
Comedian Lewis Black had a similar routine early in the decade, in which he says, "This new millennium sucks! It's exactly the same as the old millennium! You know why? No flying cars!"
The Flying Car was a comedy short film written by Kevin Smith in 2002 for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It featured Dante Hicks and Randal Graves stuck in traffic, discussing the lengths to which a man might go to obtain such a vehicle.
In 2008, Onion News Network's 245th episode, titled "Mean Automakers Dash Nation's Hope for Flying Cars", featured The Onion's anchor Brandon Armstrong humorously arguing about the feasibility and existence of flying cars with representatives from General Motors, Toyota and Ford.
Live action films
- Fantômas se déchaîne (1965) - Fantômas escapes in style, using his Citroën DS with retractable wings that converts into an airplane
- Star Wars (1977–present)
- Flying cars appear in Star Wars where they are called airspeeders, such as those that can be seen on the planet of Coruscant in all three Star Wars prequel movies, from 1999's Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace onward. They are also featured in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, where an early chase sequence involves flying cars. In 2005's Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Bail Organa rides a retro-futuristic vehicle that apart from its flying ability resembles a 1950-style car.
- Blade Runner (1982)
- "Spinner" is the generic term for the fictional flying cars used in Blade Runner, set in futuristic-cyberpunk Los Angeles of 2019. A Spinner can be driven as a ground-based vehicle, and take off vertically, hover, and cruise using jet propulsion much like Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. They are used extensively by the police to patrol and survey the population, and it is clear that despite restrictions wealthy people can acquire spinner licenses. The vehicle was conceived and designed by Syd Mead who described the spinner as an "aerodyne"—a vehicle which directs air downward to create lift, though press kits for the film stated that the spinner was propelled by three engines: "conventional internal combustion, jet, and anti-gravity" Mead's conceptual drawings were transformed into 25 working vehicles by automobile customizer Gene Winfield. A Spinner is on permanent exhibit at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington.
- Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II (1985/1989)
- The Fifth Element (1997)
- In The Fifth Element, set in 2263 New York City, flying cars are used as main mean of transportation. The production design for the film was developed by French comics creators Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières. Mézières wrote the book The Circles of Power, which features a character named S'Traks, who drives a flying taxicab through the congested air traffic of the vast metropolis on the planet Rubanis. Besson read the book and was inspired to change the Dallas character to a taxicab driver who flies through a futuristic New York City.
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Professor Caractacus Potts salvages a broken classic race car and converts it into a flying car with wings sporting external propellers.
- The Absent Minded Professor: Professor Ned Brainard (Fred MacMurray) makes a Model T fly using flubber. His flying car also appears in the sequel, Son of Flubber, and in the 1997 remake, Flubber, starring Robin Williams.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Mr. Weasley owns a Ford Anglia 105E that he used numerous spells on to make it flyable and invisible.
- Halloweentown: Marnie Cromwell, her brother Dylan and sister Sophie take a flying bus to Halloweentown to visit their grandmother and save Halloweentown from a villain named Kalabar.
- The Man with the Golden Gun: The villain, Francisco Scaramanga, owns an AMC Matador coupe that can be converted into a light airplane when wings with a jet engine and a flight tail unit are attached (the car serves as the fuselage and landing gear).
- Thunderbirds: Lady Penelope's pink Ford can extend wings and a gas-powered jet engine and take flight, retracting its back wheels. It can also, from flight setting, travel on water, where the wings fold down, and the front wheels retract. In the first film of the original puppet show, in Alan's dream, the original FAB1 Rolls-Royce flew him and Lady Penelope to the Swinging Star.
- Sky High: Sky High is a high-school for superheroes and since the school floats high above ground, access is by flying school buses
Live action television series
- In the children's TV show, Supercar, the flying car "Supercar" was invented by Rudolph Popkiss and Horatio Beaker, and piloted by Mike Mercury.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: In this 1993 TV show Power Rangers. Billy the Blue Ranger invents a flying car using the Volkswagen Beetle he dubbed the "Rad Bug" It was useful at times when they couldn't teleport to places.
- Power Rangers: Turbo In the 1997 season 5, Griller the monster makes cars fly out of control and crash into buildings and on the ground in "Cars Attack". Later on in the episode "The Wheels of fate" a flying red car named Lighting Cruiser is a vehicle that Divatox tried to capture but T.J. captured the car. The Lighting Cruiser has auto driving and can go from wheel mode to flight mode by turning 4 wheels up allowing it to fly and it can fly like a jet. It would be used by T.J. along with Storm Blaster car which was used by Justin Stewart.
- Buck Rogers (serial) In the 1939 black and white live action TV series, after Buck Rogers and Buddy Wade wake up from their deep sleep, they discover a future with flying cars.
- Marvel's Agents of Shield Characters belonging to the secret spy agency routinely use flying cars designed to look like normal vehicles.
- The Animatrix (2003)
- In the best-selling animated film The Animatrix (part of The Matrix saga), specifically in the episode called The Second Renaissance, appears a supposed TV commercial announcing a flying car called Versatran, this episode details the backstory of the Matrix universe, and the original war between man and machines which led to the creation of the Matrix; among its content shows the elaboration of the Versatran propulsion engines, and how those engines will latter be used in Hovercraft battleships like the Nebuchadnezzar (the ship Morpheus and Trinity use to rescue Neo).
- The animated television series The Jetsons, premiered in 1962, reflected the idea that flying cars would become a significant means of transportation in the future. Flying cars were also featured in the film adaptation of The Jetsons.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward in the 6th season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 TV series. Splinter the Rat and the 4 mutant Turtles Leo, Mike, Ralph, and Don time travel to the year 2105 in a New York city filled with flying cars and wheel cars. Cody Jones also runs Neil Tech industries.
- In the animated television series, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, set in the 22nd century in New London, people use flying cars as main mean of transportation.
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs A scientist Flint Lockwood attempts to build a flying car, but it crashes in the ocean. Later on, Flint Lockwood finally succeeds in building a flying car which he uses to fly up to his machine causing a raining food disaster.
- Despicable Me 2 Lucy Wilde owns a car that has the ability to convert into plane mode and both Lucy Wilde and Felonius Gru make their getaway from the Paradise Mall and the cars wings extend out and it flies away.
- Home In the 2015 DreamWorks movie, an alien named Oh shows a girl named Tip her car that he wrecked and fixed it into a flying car which they both fly in to save the world.
- Pinocchio 3000: Flying cars can be seen in the city Scamboville. Mayor Scamboli owns a flying black car, Marline owns a red flying car convertible. The Scambocop owns a flying police car. Pinocchio steals the flying taxi bus and flies in the skyways to find his dad Geppetto while the Scambocop goes on a flying car chase to pull over the flying taxi bus.
- Meet the Robinsons: In this Disney CGI movie Wilbur takes Lewis as a kid to visit the future in the red flying car time machine and visits the future where flying cars are seen in the sky in the futuristic city made by Robinson Industries.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: Many flying cars are seen in the skies of San Francisco and London, including flying garbage trucks. The final action sequence showed Spock fighting Khan on top of a couple of flying garbage trucks.
- Lilo & Stitch: In this Disney cartoon movie the monster alien named Stitch escapes from jail on a spaceship. He then escapes in a red flying car which he pilots in outer space and crash lands on Earth in Hawaii. Later on near the end of the film Stitch can be seen driving his red hovercar.
- Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever In this CGI movie the gadgetmobile converts from car mode into plane mode by extending its wings out flying over the hole in the road.
- Samurai Jack: In this Cartoon Network TV show. Jack has been sent forward in time through the time gate far into the future where he discovers flying hovercars in the city of Aku.
- Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet: Spectrum owns a fleet of red sports cars (Cheetah RRV), which can extend wings, fire a thruster and either jump over obstacles in its path or fly. Moreover, Spectrum owns a flying motorcycle design (Skyrider, which does not have wheels) and a motor-tricycle design (Stallion Raid Bike). The latter has wings, so it can be launched from Skybase.
- Phineas and Ferb: In the episode My Ride From Outer Space, the series' title characters repair and modify a crashed alien spaceship into a Hot-Rod themed flying car, they also modified their mom's station wagon into a flying car called The Flying Car of The Future, Today
- Ben10: In 2 episodes, of the original series, that are set in the future, the title character's grandfather is seen driving a flying future-version of the series' signature Rust Bucket (the old RV that's used as the main transport in the series)
- Generator Rex: Rex Salazar (the series' title character) is capable of creating bio-mechanical machines out of parts of his own body. One such machine is called a Hover-bike, a fast version of a Motorcycle that has no wheels and can hover a few feet above the ground, which he uses as his main means of transport.
- Kim Possible: A muscle car, known as The Sloth was restored and used by the title character, Kim, and her twin brothers. The same car is then later modified more extensively as a rocket-propelled vehicle, and it eventually ends-up flying into outer-space
- Back to the Future II & III NES 1990: Marty uses a remote control that allows the flying car Delorean to come to Marty whenever he needs to time travel to the years 1955, 1985A and 2015.
- Space Quest IV The Time Rippers: While Roger Wilco visits Space Quest X: Latex Babes of Estros, he gets kidnapped by women called Latex Babes. After Roger saves them from the Sea Slug monster they take him in a flying car to the Mall in the Galaxy called Galaxy Galleria.
- F-zero GX 2003: In the city called Aeropolis Multiplex, while the player is racing in a hovercar. There are flying car traffic jams the player can see while racing in their hovercar.
- Wipeout Fusion 2002: There are flying cars that can be seen while racing on the moon.
- Beam Breakers 2002: In the year 2173 the player is driving in a flying car in the skyways, dodging other flying cars in cities like "Neo York". There are 57 missions in story mode and the goals include dodging flying police cars, stealing other flying cars, ramming into an opponents, vandalizing restaurants and competing in a flying car race with flying car racers.
- Eyetoy: Antigrav 2004: This game has flying cars in 4 cities the player has to dodge while riding on a hoverboard.
- Meet the Robinsons video game 2007: Wilbur uses the red flying car time machine to chase after the Bowler Hat Guy and Doris the robot hat who stole the blue flying car time machine. Also flying cars can be seen outside Robinson Industries.
- Crime Cities 2001: Flying car can be seen flying in the city. Also the player can drive their flying car and they can shoot flying cars out of the sky.
- Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku 2004: For Nintendo Gamecube, PlayStation 2. In the futuristic city of Aku, Samurai Jack has to jump on flying hovercars to get from building to building and must be careful he doesn't fall to his death.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City contains a cheat to enable cars to fly.
- In Professor Layton and the Lost Future, Layton's car is modified so that it can fly.
- Popular Science: Looking back at Henry Ford's Flivver: A plane-car for the man of average means, December 2001 Archived 16 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- Popular Science: Looking back at Henry Ford's Flivver: A plane-car for the man of average means, December 2001 Archived 16 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
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As of March 2014 Terrafugia has registered: * N302TF (proof-of-concept, s/n D0001, Airworthiness 1 December 2008); * N304TF (design prototype, s/n D0002, A/W 2013-11-26); * N305TF (design prototype, s/n D0003, no engine or A/W date listed as of March 2014
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