Aircraft

Twin-fuselage Carplane prototype makes public debut

The Carplane flying car prototype hits the road in Germany
The Carplane flying car prototype hits the road in Germany
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Carplane uses a two-fuselage design
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Carplane uses a two-fuselage design
The Carplane flying car prototype hits the road in Germany
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The Carplane flying car prototype hits the road in Germany
Carplane has road certification
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Carplane has road certification
Carplane can park in a standard car park
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Carplane can park in a standard car park
Carplane stows its wings between its hull sections
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Carplane stows its wings between its hull sections
Carplane is aimed at the business market
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Carplane is aimed at the business market
Carplane recently made its debut at the AERo show
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Carplane recently made its debut at the AERo show
Carplane flies about as well as a trainer
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Carplane flies about as well as a trainer
Carplane is in the prototype phase
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Carplane is in the prototype phase
Carplane has a pusher prop
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Carplane has a pusher prop
Carplane uses four conventional car wheels
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Carplane uses four conventional car wheels
Carplane showing the stowed wings
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Carplane showing the stowed wings
Carplane rendering showing wings deployed
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Carplane rendering showing wings deployed
Carplane rendering showing wings stowed
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Carplane rendering showing wings stowed
Frontal renderings of Carplane
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Frontal renderings of Carplane
Top down renderings of Carplane
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Top down renderings of Carplane
Side view showing wings deployed and stowed
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Side view showing wings deployed and stowed
Carplane (top) compared to other flying car designs
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Carplane (top) compared to other flying car designs
Carplane separates passenger and driver
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Carplane separates passenger and driver

We've been teased with the prospect of a flying car for years now, with many designs, like the Terrafugia Transition, having been under development for some time but yet to arrive in garages or hangars. The Braunschweig-based company, Carplane hopes to square the circle with a twin-fuselage roadable monoplane that made its first public appearance in prototype form at the recent AERO show in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

A regular fixture on science fiction and engineering magazine covers, the flying car is more than just an escape fantasy for frustrated commuters trapped in the sixth traffic jam of the week. There's also a business case for such vehicles, which would make private plane travel more practical for greater numbers of business people.

Small planes operating from local airports can greatly speed up business travel, but it often isn't practical because of the problem of getting to and from remote airfields, which aren't noted for being booming markets for taxi services or hire car agencies. A flying car could fill this gap, but there's a catch; cars make poor aircraft, and aircraft make poor cars. This is a problem that has plagued what Carplane puts at the over 2,000 flying car projects of the past century.

Carplane showing the stowed wings
Carplane showing the stowed wings

Developed with money from the EU and the German state of Lower Saxony, Carplane says it is aiming to have its vehicle certified both as a light aircraft (in the very light aircraft (VLA) category) and as a passenger car, without any exemptions in either category. Its creators also claim that it will fly at least as well as a trainer plane and drives as well as a compact car.

Like a number of flying car designs, the Carplane has retractable wings and tail section. It's not even the first twin-fuselage flying car design we've seen. But where the Carplane does stand out is where is tucks its wings.

Instead of below, above, to the sides, or behind the car, the wings are stowed between the two hulls. This means they don't have to be folded or retracted, which allows them to be lighter and stronger without making the car too tall or too long. They are also protected from the wind while driving, preventing lift or slaloming without obstructing vision, as has been the case with some alternative arrangements. In the current prototype, the wings are stowed manually, but the company says it has designed a mechanism to do this automatically in production models, provided the vehicle is granted a weight exemption to accommodate the extra mechanics.

Carplane rendering showing wings deployed
Carplane rendering showing wings deployed

The twin-fuselage design also allows the Carplane to have four non-retractable 15-in wheels with block tires from a Smart car. These provide for a takeoff run of only 85 m (279 ft) because the wheels are under power, which means that the Carplane can operate from short grass airstrips. In addition, the hull arrangement allows the Carplane to fit in a standard garage. It's empty weight of 498 kg (1,097 lb) is about the same as a two-seat compact car.

The twin-fuselage arrangement does have an obvious downside, as it separates the driver and passenger. However, Carplane says that this isn't really a big deal, as the vehicle is aimed at the business market, where the driver and passenger are usually separated as a matter of course.

The Carplane's foldable push prop is powered by a 151 bhp PC850 engine that gives the vehicle an estimated range of 833 km (517 mi), a service ceiling of 4,570 m (15,000 ft), and a cruising speed of 200 km/h (125 mph). On the ground, it can do 176 km/h (109 mph) and is compliant with EURO-5 emission controls.

Carplane says that it hopes to have the currently unfinished prototype completed by July.

Source: Carplane via Aviation Week

16 comments
MattII
Oh not another of these hair-brained schemes. When are people going to realise that flying cars just won't work?
Nik
Over many years, there have been innumerable 'white elephants' like this. Where are they now? In the white elephant graveyard one must suppose.
pt88
Well I wasn't sure whether to buy an ugly plane or a horrible car, but now I can have both in one mediocre package.
Stuart Wilshaw
I agree with the comments made so far by others regarding the undesirability of this design travesty. I would add the comment that were these 'carplane' schemes ever to become reality the light aviation death rate would soar sky high (sorry pun not intended) as the average car driver has enough problems operating a vehicle in two dimensions never mind having to cope with a third.
Vf6cruiser
As a pilot SEL/Hi performance rated (which doesn't really mean much) I have to laugh at every one of these duds that comes along. Not a good plane and not a good car. Most are priced around $250K. For that money you can buy at least 3 used 182's that are proven to work, and a nice airport car. Those who promote these machines seem to leave a lot of questions unanswered. If you get rear ended at a red light where do you go to get it fixed, and then who signs it off as airworthy? Pedro at Collisions R Us? I don't think so. Insurance with a low time pilot is going to be through the roof. And the constant assembling and taking down leaves room for wear or a forgotten item. These are a horrible idea and always go in the tank for a good reason.
Esteban Sperber Frankel
What about girocopters, they are very easy to fly, there are dutch girocopter car the PAL V.
grtbluyonder
A carplane is like a dog that sings. Possible but who cares? Some thoughts: If you lose your drivers license can you still fly? Are you then illegal on the takeoff and landing rolls? Good design for people who don't like to fly together, each has their own private pod. Interesting like a 3 eyed fish in the Simpsons.
Ian Mitko
The bipod stored/stores its wings between the two fuselages also.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is a neat design. I hope it comes about.
Magrim
If a computer AI could completely control the plane and minimize accidents down to about 0 and not require the pilot to have a pilot's license then I see these as being feasible until we can jet around in vacuum tubes at 4,000 mi an hour.
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