A flying car you ask? Yes. A flying car refers to a vehicle that can be operated both on land and in the air. It is also called a roadable aircraft. They are not a new technology and engineers have been trying to develop a proper functioning flying car for years. A flying car is designed on the same principle that airplanes and cars use. It is, therefore, part car and part airplane.
The question of when the first flying car was invented is a complex one to answer. While there has been quite a number in the design phase none has been able to become fully operational. Henry Ford in the 1920s tried to develop a car airplane design.
Unfortunately, this project was discontinued after its maiden flight crashed and killed the pilot. Other inventors since tried to invent the flying car such as Glenn Curtiss and Waldo Waterman.
1) Glenn Curtiss and the Curtis Autoplane
Being a pioneer in the aviation and motorcycle industry in America, he is considered to be the first person to design a flying car. He named his invention Curtiss Autoplane.
Curtis Airplane Specifications
It was designed to carry three people that are the pilot and 2 passengers. It had a wingspan of 40 feet and measured 27 feet long and 3 meters high. It had a maximum speed of 105 kilometers per hour and was powered by a Curtiss V8 engine that was water cooled.
The engine powered the four push blade propeller and the twin boom tail. From its four wheels, its two front wheels could be steered while the wings and tail could be detached once on the ground. Its body was made of aluminum.
This invention was showcased in New York City in 1917. The roadable airplane, however, hoped instead of flying, begging the question, was it really a flying car?
However, this was the first invention that mirrored the flying car that actually worked. Further developments in this invention stopped when the World War began.
2) Waldo Waterman and the Arrowbile
An associate of Curtis soon developed an actual roadable aircraft. His name was Waldo Waterman and his invention of the flying car was nicknamed Waterman Whatsit.
In the early 1930s, his invention took its first flight. This first prototype design was unstable and was late redesigned and renamed the Arrowbile.
With the help of an engineer by the name Max B. Harlow, it took flight in 1932. The invention was tailless but had a fixed wing and measured 6.25 meters long and had a wingspan of 12 meters and a length of 6.25 meters. The bottom had a tricycle design.
It could drive at a speed of about 90 kilometers per hour and could fly at a speed of 18 kilometers per hour. This invention was powered by a Student baker engine.
Only about five of this early form of a flying car was made and it never went into commercial production. Waterman donated his invention to the museum.
Other Early Designs
Later on, a gentleman by the name Moulton Taylor developed a functioning flying car design in 1949. This was called the Aerocar. Instead of detachable wings like other previous designs, it had foldable wings. This enabled it to be converted into a road drive faster.
A great thing about this wing design was that it was safer. This is because, for some models with detachable wings, they were reported to detach themselves in the middle of a flight. That was a nightmare for many inventors that saw their inventions come crashing down.
It measured 10 feet and for flight purposes, the number plate was designed such that it could be connected to a propeller shaft. The airspeed was 110 to 120 kilometers per hour and a driving speed of 60 kilometers per hour. This however never went into mass production.
It is considered one of the most successful early inventions of the flying car to date. It was the last flying car invention to receive (FAA) Federal Aviation Administration approval. Modern designers have picked up from Taylors design to develop various hybrids.
Why have Flying Cars not gone into Commercial Production?
Despite advancements in technology and improvements in safety features, flying cars have not been taken into large-scale production. One of the reasons is regulations. Currently, there is no universal design and standard that has been reached for the flying cars.
Over the years several other designs have been created but there are two main flying cars designs. It can either be a helicopter design with rotor wings or fixed-winged flying cars.
Regulating the different designs invented by different countries without a universal standard would be difficult. Cost is also another inhibiting factor. According to scientists and inventors, the flying car needs to incorporate the principles and design of both airplane and the car.
This has proven to be extremely expensive to produce. The flying car invention was meant to be used by ordinary people to avoid traffic. This high cost of production is likely to translate into an expensive manufacture.
The normal everyday person cannot afford it. For the moment, mass production of this invention is therefore not viable.
I cannot recall the number of times, I have been stuck in traffic and wished my car would convert into an airplane and I would fly off. There is no denying that the production of flying would go a long way in easing up traffic on our roads. It would also help save of several hours of transport time.
However, many factors such as the development of regulations governing flying cars and suitable highways for the flying cars need to first be put in place. Low flying airspace also needs to be established where the flying cars will be flying.
In case further discoveries are made into this invention and the groundwork is done, this invention would be great. It would come second only to the wonderful invention of the telephone. Where is your flying car?