x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Terrafugia goes where Ford feared to tread

In the post Second World War years, flying cars were mandatory sci-fi props. Several contemporary designs even made it into the air though none enjoyed commercial success.

In the post Second World War years, flying cars were mandatory sci-fi props.

Several contemporary designs even made it into the air though none enjoyed commercial success.

In 1949 there was the Taylor Aerocar, with folding wings that allowed a driver to turn his car into an aeroplane in five minutes. When the rear licence plate was flipped up, the operator could connect a propeller to a shaft to the same engine that drove the front wheels.

On the road, the wings and tail unit were designed to be towed behind the vehicle. Aerocars could drive up to 95kph and have a top airspeed of 175kph. Six were made.

In the 1950s, Ford performed a serious feasibility study for a flying car and concluded such a product was technically feasible, economically manufacturable and had significant realistic markets with ambulance, police and emergency services, as well as luxury transportation.

However, the US federal aviation administration ruled existing air traffic control couldn't cope with the volume of traffic Ford proposed.

Other potential pitfalls were raised, such as people attempting to drive/fly without a licence, and the dangers to people on the ground. Another notable design, made by mating the rear portion of a Cessna Skymaster to a Ford Pinto was to have gone into production in 1974.

The pod-and-twin-boom configuration of the Skymaster, with the passenger space and front engine removed, left an airframe ready to attach to a small car.

It was due to go into production in 1974 but a series of crashes, one fatal, did for that project.

 

dblack@thenational.ae