While some people use the terms Flying car and roadable aircraft interchangeably, or use thelatter term to bypass the science fiction connotations of the former, they are explicitly two quitedifferent concepts. One wishing to design such vehicles must first decide which approach isappropriate. The ‘flying car’ is primarily a car in which the driver has the option of taking to theair when desired or necessary. The ‘roadable aircraft’ is an airplane that also happens to becapable of operation on the highway.In the past, most designs have actually been for roadable aircraft. They started out looking likeconventional airplanes but with wings and possibly with tails that could be retracted or folded.Alternatively, they may be removed and towed in a trailer when the vehicle is operated on theroad. Several such vehicles have been designed and built. A few, such as the Taylor Aerocar1 or the Fulton Airphibian, have been certified for use in flight and on the highway. Both types of vehicle have been sold to the public. The roadable aircraft is meant to be primarily an airplane but with the capability of being driven on roads to and from the airport. It must also be capableof getting the pilot and passengers to their desired destination on the highway when the weather prevents flight. As such, it is a vehicle primarily sold to licensed pilots. They would use its on-road capabilities in a limited manner, and not as a substitute for the family automobile for everyday trips to the supermarket. Typical problems with such designs have been their poor performance both in the air and on the road. Also, there has been in the past a reluctance of insurance companies to write policies which will cover their operation in both environments
The ‘flying car’, unlike the roadable aircraft, has proved to be more of a fantasy than anachievable reality. A key element in the development of a successful flying car is designing acontrol system that will enable a ‘driver’ who may not be a trained pilot to operate the vehicle ineither mode of travel. This virtually necessitates a ‘category III capable’ automated controlsystem for the vehicle. This must provide a ‘departure-to destination’ flight control, navigationand communication environment. Many experts feel that such a design is possible today, butonly at high cost. Ideally, if the ‘flying car’ is to become the family car, it must have a price thatis at least comparable to a luxury automobile (preferably less than 25 percent of the cost of thecheapest current four passenger general aviation aircraft).
Dept. Aero. Engg., MVJCE, Bengaluru. Page 2