A flying car or roadable aircraft is an aircraft that can also travel along roads. All the working examples have required some manual or automated process of conversion between the two modes of operation.
A slightly different concept that is sometimes referred to as a "flying car", particularly in science fiction, is that of an aircraft that would be practical enough for every day travel, but would not necessarily be drivable on the roads.
Glenn Curtiss, the chief rival of the Wright brothers, was the first to design a flying car. His large, three-wing Curtiss Autoplane was able to hop, not fly.
In 1926, Henry Ford displayed an experimental single-seat aeroplane that he called the "sky flivver". The project was abandoned two years later when a distance-record attempt flight crashed, killing the pilot. The Flivver was not a flying car at all, but it did get press attention at the time, exciting the public that they would have a mass produced affordable airplane product that would be would be made, marketed, sold, and maintained just like an automobile. The airplane was to be as commonplace in the future as the Model T of the time.
The first flying car to actually fly was built by Waldo Waterman. Waterman was associated with Curtiss while Curtiss was pioneering naval aviator on North Island on San Diego Bay in the 1910s. On March 21, 1937, Waterman's Aerobile first took to the air. The Aerobile was a development of Waterman's tailless aircraft, the Whatsit. It had a wingspan of 38 feet (11 m) and a length of 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 m). On the ground and in the air it was powered by a Studebaker engine. It could fly at 112 mph (180 km/h) and drive at 56 mph (90 km/h).
In the 1950s, the western world was recovering from World War II and everything seemed possible. The flying car was a vision of transportation in the 21st century, and a common feature of science fiction futures.
Although several designs (such as the Convair flying car) have flown, none have enjoyed commercial success, and those that have flown are not widely known about by the general public. The most successful example, in that several were made and one is still flying, is the 1949 Taylor Aerocar. One notable design, Henry Smolinski's Mizar, made by mating the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster with a Ford Pinto, disintegrated during test flights, killing Smolinski and the pilot.
Full article ▸