The history of flying cars

The thought of a flying car has long excited people’s imaginations. The theme comes up from time to time, mostly thanks to one of the science fiction films. But what happened in reality? In 2015, Back to the Future. The idea of ​​a car that can travel both on land and in the air is being mentioned more and more in connection with the second part of the film trilogy. his own sci-fi. We tracked who experimented with the implementation and with what results.

The aircraft underwent a terrible development in the first third of the 20th century. In just over 30 years, the first commercial transatlantic aircraft (from boats) to the first commercial transatlantic aircraft (boats) have run from the first waving, precariously flying, life-threatening-looking aircraft. they would not have existed without them in the late 1930s, and both modes of transport developed at such a rate that the average person could be sure that we would be driving cars by the end of the century. it was also extremely popular years ago, in fantastic films it was another “fixed point” in addition to interplanetary space travel.

The first somewhat serious aircraft plan was the Curtiss Autoplane, born in 1917. The vehicle combined the design, then fashionable at the time, halfway between carriages and later “car-shaped cars,” with its three-hooded aircraft so often seen in World War I photographs. Almost entirely made of aluminum, the car had a V8, 9-liter petrol engine in the rear, which was able to turn the rear wheels as well as the four-pin wooden thrust propeller, also located at the rear. The wings (the so-called dragon structure) could, of course, be dismantled if we wanted to travel on the road, but this was not an easy task (considering that with the wings attached, the vehicle was more than 12 meters wide). In addition, the strange car had the biggest disadvantage of mule vehicles: it could not be used as a full-fledged car or a real airplane. The Autoplane was not able to fly for short distances either, but rather could only perform “long jumps”. The very rudimentary plan was finally put to an end by the U.S.’s entry into World War I.

Although also quite rudimentary from today’s point of view, the tricycle called Waterman Arrowbile, built in 1937, was much more advanced than the Autoplane. A wooden and textile dragon structure could be attached to the small aluminum car body, and the car was supported by three free-standing wheels. Thanks to the lightweight materials, it barely weighed 1,200 pounds even when refueled.

Thanks to the 120-horsepower in-line six-cylinder Studebaker engine, the Arrowbile was able to reach 200 km / h in the air and 120 km / h on the road, meaning it easily brought the features of contemporary cars and planes. There was no problem with the range either, during one of the test flights they flew with him from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, covering a distance of almost 3,500 kilometers. The Arrowbile only had to deal with the practical disadvantages: since it could only be called a full-fledged car, and it cost a lot compared to that, people simply didn’t have to. Only five pieces were made of it.

The flying car called Airphibian (a combination of the words air = air and amphibian = amphibian), made in 1946, was not much separated from meeting it on contemporary roads and in the air. True, instead of the term flying car, the name Rolling Aircraft is more accurate in the case of Airphibian, as this vehicle resembled a one-on-one small propeller aircraft of the time.

If they wanted to go with him in car mode, the entire rear of the vehicle’s fuselage could be uncoupled along with the wings. With its 165-horsepower engine, its flight speed was 200 km / h and it could ascend to altitudes of up to 3,500 meters. The disadvantage of the car is no longer as much technical difficulties as the legal regulations. It was difficult to “paper” a car that could fly, and there was a lack of legislation. Thus, in the end, the Airphibian did not survive series production either, only four were made of it.

Perhaps the closest to mass production were two vehicles made in the late 1940s. The 1947 ConvAirCar-116 (and its successor, the 118) followed the usual body-mounted dragon structure solution. A major improvement over the previous ones was the use of two separate engines for aviation and road transport, which was somewhat more complicated, but also eliminated a number of disadvantages at the same time. Driving did not require an engine as powerful as flying, and it required a completely different gear to drive the propeller than it did to the wheels. The ConvAirCar’s body features a small four-cylinder, 700cc, 26bhp petrol engine that produced an otherwise extremely modest 6-liter fuel consumption (and a top speed of 100km / h).

In the dragon structure that could be attached to the roof, a separate motor drove the two-feather, wood-carved propeller (it was also simpler that the propeller drive did not have to be permanently fitted to the car’s engine). A 95-horsepower, four-cylinder boxer engine was used for the flight, which could reach a speed of 180 km / h. The ConvAirCar already looked specifically car-like without the wings, with no problems with its ride characteristics and usability – the designers were confident it would live out mass production. Unfortunately, however, this also did not happen because the prototype crashed on one of the test drives. Due to the accident, it occurred to investors that a flying car might not be such a good idea after all, and their enthusiasm waned. Although the 65 flights before the fatal flight were completed flawlessly, the program could not continue after that. Convair had yet to come up with an improved, more powerful version of the car, the 118, but by then no one wanted to sacrifice money for the idea.

The other “big throw” was the Taylor Aerocar, introduced in 1949, and it was the only one that managed to achieve series production. The Aerocar was not only detachable with its wings, but also foldable, which was a huge step forward. At the vehicle, great attention has been paid to practicality and to making it usable in everyday life. It was designed to allow the average person to convert a model from a car to an airplane (or vice versa) in five minutes. To this end, several innovations were introduced, such as the wings being not only detachable but also foldable. The storage was solved so that the folded wings could be placed on the trailer attached to the Aerocar, i.e. the car could be converted into an aircraft anywhere. After attaching the wings, a composite propeller with a diameter of 2 meters could be fitted to the stub axle behind the license plate.

The propeller drive could then be activated by disengaging the three-speed manual (road) transmission (if reversed, the car could be reversed). The two-seater Aerocar, with its 140-horsepower four-cylinder boxer engine, was capable of 100 km / h on the road and 170 in the air, with a maximum flight altitude of 3,700 meters, with a tank of petrol of approx. He was able to fly 500 kilometers. So Aerocar already had relatively few compromises to make, though, the car itself wasn’t something big, it only had room for two people, and the trailer wasn’t the most comfortable option either. Overall, however, it was a major step forward. Production of the Aerocart began in 1956, but instead of the expected 500 orders, only half as many arrived, and there were only six customers around them who were really serious about buying. The cars made for them still exist today, though only one of them flies regularly. Aerocars, if sold, change hands for millions of dollars.

The history of the flying car, of course, is not over yet. Not so much that we were able to read the latest serious news on the subject just a few months ago. In October 2014, the AeroMobil 3.0, designed and manufactured by the Slovak AeroMobil Team, made a successful take-off near Vienna after 24 years of development. The look of the vehicle is reminiscent of an “intersection” of an extravagant sports car and a sports aircraft.

Its wings can finally be folded out not by human force, but automatically. The two-person vehicle weighs only 600 kg thanks to its lightweight carbon fiber body. With the help of a four-cylinder, 100-horsepower boxing engine, it can travel 160 km / h on the road and 200 km in the air, and its fuel consumption is particularly favorable: 7.5 l / 100 km as a car and 15 l / h as an airplane. This allows you to cover up to 700 kilometers without recharging. It is not yet known when the special vehicle can be purchased.

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