:rolleyes: It’s the Flying Car topic again.
As has been pointed out, we already have “flying cars” made by fine companies such as Cessna, Piper, Mooney, and others. They’re called “light aircraft”, typically seat 4 (although there are 2 and 6 or more seat varieties), use seatbelts very similar to what you find in a ground car, and the same sort of upholstery. A used four-seater in good (i.e. safe to fly) condition can be had for $30k-$50k (variability due to age, instrumentation, engine, and other extras) - in other words, for about the same price as a high-end SUV and cheaper than a Hummer. Toys of the wealthy? Not always - next time you’re on the road and see herds of $30k SUV’s, think to yourself… “those people could have bought an airplane instead of that”. If you own one, YOU could have bought an airplane. There could be a LOT more private pilots in this country than there actually are.
A certain number of “flying cars” are helicoptors. Those are a LOT more expensive.
We already have “flying ambulances”. They’re called “helicoptors”.
So - why haven’t the flying cars we have caught on? A number of reasons.
1) In order to survive a modern “flying car” you actually have to be competant to operate the machine. In other words, you actually have to study to pass a written and practical test that has real meaning. Contrast this with the requirements for “ground cars”. This annoys some people enough that they don’t bother. You must also undergo periodic re-testing to prove you are still competant. This also annoys people. The annoyed people seem oblivious to nearly a century of accumulated evidence that flying vehicles are not particularly forgiving of neither ignorance nor error, and that the consequences of those errors and ignorance can be grave. As in cemetary.
The “flying car” proposals I’ve seen usually mention some sort of computer control system. If we have these in mature form why aren’t they being used in aircraft? The only aircraft I know of where a computer actually does the flying are some very advanced commercial airliners (where human pilots are backups to the machine, and are there to monitor it for proper function), the military’s remote control drones (which have a human operator back at a base somewhere), and some experimental drones that are independent but flown away from populated areas and commercial air traffic. Those don’t always behave as expected, and sometimes crash for puzzling reasons. Two of the above still require a trained human in the loop. All are very expensive. So expensive, in fact, that in most applications a trained hairless ape is much more cost-effective.
I haven’t seen any flying car design that solves this problem. While safe computerized control is theorectically possible, we’re not there yet.
2) Navigation - or, getting lost at 5,000 feet and 180 mph is a whole new experience. Think about how often people get lost while driving. Particularly when driving in an unfamilar area, despite readily available maps, big honkin’ signs everywhere, and the ease of pulling over either to think or to question other humans about one’s whereabouts. This has happened more than once to every driver on the road. Now, imagine how much easier it would be to get lost where there are NO signs, you can’t pull over, you can’t even slow down very much, and there aren’t any roads.
When I get lost in a car on a long road trip there are easy to find, very clearly marked exits for the freeway, with (usually) helpful people at the end of the exit where I can easily slow down, re-orient myself, and ask where I am. This is fairly low stress (particularly since I’m female).
When I get lost in an airplane it’s a different ball of wax. There are no signs up there anywhere. I have to figure out where I am based on landmarks. I have to maintain a minimum speed -meaning not only am I lost, I’m getting even more lost at 70-100 mph. I have to keep flying the airplane. Sometimes I can read town names off water towers - but imagine trying to read one of those (sorting through spraypainted graffitti) while going by at 120 mph. Airports are the equivalent of freeway on/off ramps BUT they aren’t marked - I have to find them amid the houses, trees, fields, buildings, rivers, lakes, and other ground objects that may well be 1/2 mile or more below me. Meanwhile, unlike a road where you can be reasonably sure everyone on your side is going the same direction, in the air traffic can come at you from any direction - left, right, front, rear, above, below. Sure, GPS can tell you where you are - if it’s working (the units do fail from time to time). But it’s also up to the driver/pilot to avoid restricted airspace. We had that even prior to 9/11 and it’s only gotten worse since then. Get lost AND get lost too close to Airforce One and you just might be shot down - the legal authority exists for the airforce to do just that, and given the current political climate, they’d probably bill your heirs for the bullets and the gas for the pursuit jets. In a sense, being intercepted is like being pulled over by a state trooper on the highway - a state trooper with a loaded machine gun on the hood and air-to-air missiles in a sedan that can outrun YOUR car by a factor of 10. And remember - there are no signs up there. Last time I got lost over Illinois I was circling, trying to figure out where I was (I had access to neither GPS nor navigational radios) and hoping to God I wasn’t lost over a power plant and unintentionally circling it (I knew there were six nuclear ones within 100 miles of me, and probably a dozen coal or oil-fired models). Or something else that would get the neighbors in a tizzy. Or violating commercial airspace. Because there is NOTHING up there to indicate when you’ve strayed into a Forbidden Zone except your own brain, eyeballs, and map-reading ability. I try real hard not to get lost. It’s hazardous in a way getting lost in a car is not.
Again, there’s nothing in the flying car designs that would definitively solve these problems. The GPS system they use is the same already in use, with all the same limitations and problems (and expense)
3) The weather. As an example, I would have liked to have flown myself and the husband from Indiana to Tennesee this week, but we drove instead. Why? Because the three thunderstorms we drove through were an inconvenience in the car - in the airplane they would have been deadly. Until you get up to something the size of airliners, in heavy weather cars are more practical. I can drive my car in a 45 mph wind. Most of the airplanes I fly won’t remain parked in a wind like that - either you tie/chain them physically in place or they will literally blow away. The ride in my car does not change based upon how much wind there is, or how many gusts - but it sure does in a “flying car”! Trying to land a Cessna 150 in a 25-30 mile an hour wind with gusts is like trying to pull into your driveway at 75 mph when either the car or the driveway is allowed to shift left and right or up and down at any time. If ice or snow accumulates on my ground car, the car will not spontaneously roll over and skid off the road while upside down into a ditch. An airplane taking on ice, though, will do the equivalent. If the weather gets horrific while driving you can pull over almost anywhere and wait it out - you can’t do that in an airplane - you have to keep flying until you find a safe landing, and if it’s severe enough you may not be able to land safely and will just have to hope your supply of gas and skill lasts longer than the storm around you.
Since most of the weather problems listed above are a result of size vs. storm, none of the proposed flying car designs (which are comparable in size and weight to light general aviation as we presently have it) will solve the problems.
4) The laws of physics make no exceptions. I can NOT drive my car so fast that the speed of the air rushing by it will tear it apart. Every airplane I’m aware of is VERY capable of attaining such a speed if the pilot does something stupid. Gravity never stops working. You can NOT fly through a solid object without severe injury or death as a result - if you hit a telephone pole with your ground car you stand a reasonable chance of surviving. If you hit it with your “flying car” you’ll almost certainly die.
Again, I haven’t seen any solutions to the above problem. A computerized control system might prevent idiot drivers from overspeeding their flying car, it might avoid solid objects, but I don’t think our current computer systems are reliable and sophisticated enough at present.
Flying cars inevitable? Then why do we have fewer active private pilots now than in the 1970’s? Why are there fewer airplanes built and sold than in the 1970’s? Seems to me airborne personal transportation is declining, not increasing.