posted on May, 13 2008 @ 09:49 AM
Right now, flying cars are simply not viable for several reasons:
1) The mechanics have not been perfected to meet FAA production and free-flight standards on any of the prototypes thus built. Moller's craft
pretty much all have to fly on tethers and be marked as "Experimental". Now he's been at this for over 30 years, and has yet to get one single
prototype cleared. Lack of funding? Maybe. Since he is a small-potatoes operation with no military contracting connections he doesn't get the cash
companies like Raytheon and Scaled Composites do. He also doesn't carry the same clout with the FAA. But, more than that, maybe the damn things
just don't work, and his constant fundraising efforts go elsewhere besides R&D.
2) FAA Certification is a long ways off. Moller has also been (supposedly) trying to get the FAA to certify his craft, but the unique characteristics
require the creation of what amounts to a whole new classification of private aircraft: Vectored Thrust. This class simply does not exist at this
moment. Thus, not only are there no set criteria to judge a Skycar on, there is literally no person qualified to fly one because there's no
licensing class around which to set up training, testing, and personal certification.
Note that flight licensing is separated into various tiers, each requiring set standards of training. The sport and basic licenses revolve mainly
around single-engine props. Multi-engine is a different classification (Moller's Skycars have eight or more separate engines--that's a required
mutli-engine rating if ever I saw one), jets, helicopters, aerobatic, etc. etc.
3) Computer control may be the intent, and computer autopilot systems may be quite advanced for commercial aircraft right now, but human control is
still a necessity for safe air travel.
This is especially important considering the environment in which these craft would be operating. I honestly cannot see Skycars whipping around
downtown Chicago skyscrapers at high speeds, making hairpin turns, weaving around each other as they jockey for position (just as normal cars on any
road do now), stopping, hovering, and generally acting like cars do today. I can't see it because the technology just isn't advanced enough (at
least not what's been released for public use), because a lot of people wouldn't want it that way (Chicago Mayor Daley already wants all of
the city proper to be a no-fly zone; he illegally destroyed Meigs Field and is known to many as an opponent of civil aviation--imagine the conniption
he'd throw over Skycars zipping around his city!!), and because the average civilian would not have the skill to handle such a beast.
The kinds of maneuvers these craft would be capable of, and the environment in which they would have to operate, would pretty much require training on
the level of a military fighter pilot.
Think of the last airshow you went to and consider how much training goes into formation demonstration flying. Now consider how cars drive on the
highway, how close they get to each other, how they have to park, how constricted a space they travel in, and imagine the average driver of one of
those cars in the cockpit of an F-16 trying to pull a 3g turn in a diamond formation. Not a very pretty thought, is it? The speeds may be different
and we're not expecting super-maneuverability but the analogy stands. Most people are simply not equipped, physically and mentally, to deal with
flight on such a level.
Even professional pilots, depending on the type of plane they're used to flying, might not be comfortable in such a craft (I've known several
who've told me that after years of flying large commercial liners they feel totally out of place in anything smaller than a Gulfstream and are not
confident they could handle a small plane for anything more than basic certification upkeep).
4) Maintenance would be a GIGANTIC problem. Most people just don't maintain their cars properly. Airplanes require far more careful maintenance
with more oversight of what is maintained and how. That maintenance is expensive and even if you possess the basic abilities to do most of the work
yourself (like with a homebuilt) a skilled professional with knowledge of FAA regs still needs to inspect the work and certify its completion.
Everything must be logged precisely. Parts and fluids aren't cheap. Things car owners take for granted can be a big hassle for an airplane owner.
On the plus side, it would create a huge demand for trained and certified aircraft mechanics.
5) Price. Skycars would be prohibitively expensive to purchase (six-figure price tag), at least for the first five to ten years. They'd be a toy
for the rich, a novelty few would even likely use. The price of such a vehicle would have to be comparable to a compact- or mid-size car (14-25K) to
make it a viable, competitive form of transportation for the masses. As long as a Skycar costs as much, if not more, than a house (and look where the
housing market is) mass production and replacement of the family car is a virtual impossibility.
Frankly I think we're a very long way off. The best use of these vehicles right now, if the certification and training requirements could be met
today and production of finished showroom-floor models started, would be for those with the cash to cut long-range driving trips by flying straight
from the driveway to the destination.
If these craft are to be truly viable as replacements for cars they need to ba able to act like cars, driving on the ground as well as flying (think
the Spinner, the flying cop car, from Blade Runner--or the cars from Back to the Future 2). That hasn't worked so well when it's been tried so far.