We often hear that flying cars will never be anything, even though these vehicles are not so much heralds of the distant future that the newspapers had already reported in 1973 that flying cars would soon be turning upside down. The fact that the technology did not spread, however, was accompanied by a terrible tragedy, among other things.
The concept of the flying car itself is not so new that Glenn Hammond Curtiss experimented as early as 1917 with building a so-called “roadable aircraft” that could travel on the road as well. The abandoned idea was followed in the coming decades by increasingly sophisticated attempts such as the Waterman Arrowbile, the Fulton FA-2 Airphibian, and the Taxlor Aerocar. These vehicles were all built on pretty much the same concept, meaning they had detachable wings and a propeller, but they could only be called a real car with great benevolence.
And so we get to 1973, when Henry A. Smolinski and Harold Blake developed the Mizar 210, the first real flying car. The two men in their thirties were not some kind of abstract miracle beetle, they both graduated from Northrop University of Technology as aeronautical engineers, and in 1968 they formed a joint venture called Advanced Vehicle Engineers to build the revolutionary vehicle. Smolinski and Blake approached the issue of the “roadable airplane” significantly differently than before, as their plan from the outset was to transform a real, commercial car, ensuring that their vehicle was not only an airplane but also a car. one hundred percent holds its place.
Interest in the project really grew after Smolinski and Blake unveiled their plans in a press conference in 1970. Although even then they didn’t know what kind of car they were going to use, they were sure they would combine the wings and engine of a Cessna Skymaster small plane with a car. “Our plan is to be so easy to manage that even a woman can cope with it,” Smolinski put forward their no longer politically correct goals with today’s eyes.
The next two years were tirelessly planned, and in the meantime it was also decided to use a Ford Pinto for the project, which was a particularly light, economical car with a weight of around a ton. The car, built up to 1980, was later famous for the “Pinto Memory,” a leaked internal document that testified that Ford drivers were well aware that the car could easily ignite in a collision, but it was calculated that it was better to do business. it is worth having 180 people in your car every year than recalling all the cars and fixing the fault.
The Smolinskis, however, did not yet know about this, and in 1973 they began test flights with the “flying Pinto”. Contemporary newspapers quickly picked up the story, and based on inspiring accounts, anyone could have had the feeling that flying cars would be part of everyday life in a few years. According to Gizmodo, the August 23, 1973, issue of The Oklahoman, for example, reported successful tests: “It’s finally done. A car that flies. The Mizar 210 is a two-door, four-seater, 1973 white Ford Pinto with attachable wings.” The paper was also addressed by the designer himself, who demonstrated through a tangible example how the new technology will make transport much easier.
“Let’s say you want to go to Disneyland. You can get in your car and go on the freeway, spending a few hours in a traffic jam. Either you can fly to an airport and then call a taxi, rent a car, or wait for a friend to come for you. it disappears: you simply fly to the air park, untie the wings, shift the gear, and then you can go on to Disneyland. “
However, the promising plans came to an ugly end on September 11, 1973, when Smolinski and Blake took Mizar on another test flight from Camarillo Airport. The project was so advanced at the time, according to a contemporary report from Sacramento Bee, that the designers had also organized a forty-station demonstration tour in the United States to facilitate later sales, which would have begun in 1974. However, this could never have happened. The flying Pinto took off from the airport barely two minutes ago as thick smoke erupted from it, then one of its wings detached and the car crashed. In the accident, both designers died a monster.
There were a number of interrelated reasons for the tragedy: the Pinto, with its one-tonne weight, was too heavy for the wings of the Cessna Skymaster, and Smolinski was not an experienced test pilot. The Mizar was usually led by Charles Janisse, who was well aware that when turning, the heavy load on the wing could fail due to the heavy load, but he could not fly on it on the tragic day. A subsequent investigation by the National Road Safety Council found that the accident was caused directly by poor welding, as the stiffening rod of the right wing was torn off the side of the car due to the extreme load.
Despite the failure of the Mizar, flying cars have since shaken the imagination of many designers, and in recent years Terrafugia and Slovak AeroMobil, among others, have tried to create such a vehicle. Nevertheless, it seems that more and more companies are beginning to see the classic flying car as the means of transport of the future, be it EVTOL, VTOL or any other abbreviation.