Flights of fantasy
We're still waiting for that flying car, gentlemen
It seems that we may have been a little hard on Paul Moller, inventor of the M400 flying car. Despite the reservations of MIT and NASA boffins, Mr Moller's supporters insist that the vehicle is a viable proposition.
Moller's flying car pedigree looks impressive - on paper at least. In 1989 he successfully flew the M200X. This rotary-engined flying saucer has since made over 200 flights, although there are currently no plans for a family saloon version.
Perhaps Moller should take a leaf from The Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company. This San Diego outfit wowed the post-war world with its ConvAIRCAR - a flying car in the true sense of the word. Just drive to the airport, clip on some wings and a propellor and away you go.
The ConvAIRCAR's design was truly revolutionary. On November 17, 1947, its 725 pound fibreglass body circled San Diego for over an hour, delivering 45mpg.
Vultee's celebrations were shortlived, however. A few days after the maiden flight the prototype crash landed in the desert, proving that mid-air is a very poor place to run out of petrol. The disaster was later blamed on a faulty fuel gauge, but the damage was already done. Public confidence in the project plummeted, and the ConvAIRCAR was consigned to history.
Manufacturers have since been unable to sell the flying car concept to a sceptical public. They keep trying though, bless 'em.
Paul Moller is not alone in keeping the dream alive. The CarterCopter is: "is a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft projected to cruise at 400 MPH at 50,000 feet (230 MPH at sea level). It uses a rotor for vertical takeoff and landing and a small wing for high speed cruise."
Actually, the CarterCopter is more or less an advanced autogyro. Its manufacturers claim that it offers: "the speed and efficiency of a fixed wing aircraft and the off-airport abilities of a helicopter, all with much less complexity than tiltrotor aircraft and other vectored thrust aircraft such as the Harrier."
All well and good. The CarterCopter and Moller M400 are both offering themselves as an escape from commuter drudgery. To be a viable alternative to the car they need to address two issues: showroom price and fuel costs. The M400 will weigh in at around $700,000 - when and if it ever flies. For a bit extra I can buy a Harrier jump-jet right now. And will Moller be offering Sidewinders as an optional extra? I think not. Once again we ask - Where's our flying car?®
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