Aircraft

Aeromobil flying car prototype gets off the ground for the first time

Aeromobil flying car prototype...
The Aeromobil flying car designed by Stefan Klein takes to the skies for the first time
The Aeromobil flying car designed by Stefan Klein takes to the skies for the first time
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This earlier prototype of the Aeromobil flying car had just one tail fin (Photo: Peter Zakovic, SME)
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This earlier prototype of the Aeromobil flying car had just one tail fin (Photo: Peter Zakovic, SME)
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Stefan Klein poses in the skeletal frame of the flying car. You can see the driveshafts from the mid-mounted engine run forward to drive the front wheel in car mode (Photo: Peter Zakovic, SME)
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Stefan Klein poses in the skeletal frame of the flying car. You can see the driveshafts from the mid-mounted engine run forward to drive the front wheel in car mode (Photo: Peter Zakovic, SME)
The Aeromobil cockpit is very snug, and has two steering wheels, one for the ground and the smaller wheel for flying (Photo: Aeromobil)
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The Aeromobil cockpit is very snug, and has two steering wheels, one for the ground and the smaller wheel for flying (Photo: Aeromobil)
A rear view of the flying car showing the propeller arrangement. The prop does not move in car mode, just in the air (Photo: Aeromobil)
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A rear view of the flying car showing the propeller arrangement. The prop does not move in car mode, just in the air (Photo: Aeromobil)
An overhead view of the flying car shows the sleek lines and square wings (Photo: Aeromobil)
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An overhead view of the flying car shows the sleek lines and square wings (Photo: Aeromobil)
Another view of the Aeromobil flying car. The large silver surfaces on the tail are the elevators, that tilt the aircraft up and down (Photo: Aeromobil)
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Another view of the Aeromobil flying car. The large silver surfaces on the tail are the elevators, that tilt the aircraft up and down (Photo: Aeromobil)
Side view of the Aeromobil in airplane mode, ready for takeoff (Photo: Aeromobil)
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Side view of the Aeromobil in airplane mode, ready for takeoff (Photo: Aeromobil)
The wings fold back to make the flying car fit on the roadways. It also runs on automotive gas (Photo: Aeromobil)
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The wings fold back to make the flying car fit on the roadways. It also runs on automotive gas (Photo: Aeromobil)
Front view of the sleek Aeromobil flying car in ground mode (Photo: Aeromobil)
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Front view of the sleek Aeromobil flying car in ground mode (Photo: Aeromobil)
The Aeromobil flying car designed by Stefan Klein takes to the skies for the first time
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The Aeromobil flying car designed by Stefan Klein takes to the skies for the first time
Designer Stefan Klein in his award winning three wheeled electric scooter, which he uses to commute to work each day (Photo: Peter Zakovic, SME)
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Designer Stefan Klein in his award winning three wheeled electric scooter, which he uses to commute to work each day (Photo: Peter Zakovic, SME)

There is a saying in flying: “If it looks good, it will fly well.” Stefan Klein, a designer from the Slovak Republic, has announced the first flight of his Aeromobil Version 2.5, a flying car prototype he has been developing over the last 20 years. This vehicle is a strikingly beautiful design with folding wings and a propeller in the tail. But will its flight capabilities match its looks?

The Aeromobil V2.5 is a propeller-driven aircraft that also functions as an automobile – or you can think of it it a car with lofty aspirations. The aviation aspects seem to be prominent in the design, with a streamlined cockpit, super light weight, and sleek tail fins in the back. Propulsion is provided by a 100 hp Rotax 912 water cooled engine mounted behind the seats, with drive shafts leading both aft to the propeller and forward to the two front wheels for driving.

This project is not the only flying car around. There is also the US-based Terrafugia, which folds up its wings vertically on the sides of the vehicle. There is also a Dutch design called the PAL-V, where the ground vehicle is a three wheeled tilting motorcycle that turns into a gyrocopter at the airport.

The wings fold back to make the flying car fit on the roadways. It also runs on automotive gas (Photo: Aeromobil)
The wings fold back to make the flying car fit on the roadways. It also runs on automotive gas (Photo: Aeromobil)

When the Automobil is a car, the wings are folded straight back along the fuselage and the engine drives the front wheels, while the small back wheels support the tail. There seems to be very little structure, and the entire vehicle weighs just 980 lb (450 kg) empty of fuel and passengers. There is room for two people in the very snug cockpit, and there are two steering wheels, mounted one inside the other in front of the driver/pilot. The larger wheel is for driving on the ground, and the smaller wheel is used for flying.

As shown in the video below, when the Aeromobil gets to the airport, the driver/pilot pushes a button and the wings fold out for a wingspan of 8.2 m (27 ft), which is comparable to other light sport aircraft of similar weight and power. The large flaps (moveable surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing) in this prototype flip over the wing and hang down to add lift for takeoff with the entire wing also tilting up a few degrees to assume the proper angle to the wind for takeoff.

The driver switches the gearbox to send power back to the propeller that is mounted at the very end of the vehicle between the two vertical tails. The Aeromobil then takes to the runway and accelerates for takeoff. In the video the airplane stays near the runway, as you would expect with a first flight. The airplane mode of the Aeromobil would have a top speed of 200 kph (124 mph) and a range of over 700 km (430 miles).

Klein says that in car mode the Aeromobil fits into a standard parking space and can be refueled at the same gas station as all the other cars – in other words, it does not require special aviation fuel like most aircraft. The flying car is extremely lightweight, coming in at less than half the weight of a compact car like the Ford Fiesta, which weighs 1,041 kg (2295 lbs). The structure is a steel tube frame with a carbon fiber composite shell, a configuration familiar to fans of racing cars.

Side view of the Aeromobil in airplane mode, ready for takeoff (Photo: Aeromobil)
Side view of the Aeromobil in airplane mode, ready for takeoff (Photo: Aeromobil)

The Aeromobil is a prototype intended to demonstrate to investors that the concept is viable. Klein is now shopping this striking flying vehicle to potential manufacturers and investors in order to make it a reality. Once such a deal is struck, he estimates that it would take two additional years to get certification for the Aeromobil to go into production, presumably under the existing Light Sport Aircraft rules.

Over the twenty year gestation of this flying car concept, Klien has created four different versions of his dream. The first version did not have folding wings at all, but was a boxy canard (tail first) design with tall wheels. The next versions featured the signature folding wings, but different tail configurations. Version 2.0 had an inverted V-shaped tail and this last version 2.5 was the first with two vertical tail fins enclosing the wheels. His web site shows drawings for Version 3.0.

Klein has a very interesting background, with degrees both in mechanical engineering, and in fine arts. He originally wanted to be a sculptor, but received his engineering degree first. He later studied design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, the Slovak Republic and became the head of the Department of Transport Design at that school. As a professional, he worked on car designs for Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen, and won a national design award for a three-wheeled electric scooter, which he still drives to work each day.

Flying is in the Klein family, however, and his grandfather, father and brother are all pilots. He started flying as a teenager with his brother, and today flies both powered aircraft and gliders. For the Aeromobil, he is also the chief test pilot, which in unusual in these days of large aerospace companies.

Klein calls his Aeromobil flying car “the intersection of technology and art.” You can judge this for yourself by checking out the following video in which Klein demonstrates the road driving characteristics and then shows the first flight of the Aeromobil flying car.

Source: AVWEB, AEROMOBIL, AUTOSME.sk

Aeromobil - First flying Car

31 comments
Grunchy
The trouble with these 2-in-1 devices is, because of compromises, they often aren't good at either function. So this is a lousy overpriced car and a terrible airplane. The fact that it's two machines in one doesn't help the situation... They used to have console stereo systems that had a TV tube & tuner, a record player, a radio, and a hi-fi all in one. If any part of it quit working, all of it had to go to the shop!!! Or like a tablet that's also a phone and a camera. It's too small to be a good tablet and simultaneously too big to be a good phone, and the camera sensor doesn't give good photography. I could go on and on...
David Clarke
I think this design looks very nice. I expect insurance would be pretty high. I wonder if an owner would be tempted to take off from a motorway. So much easier than finding an airport! I couldn't see how the folded wings got past the tailfins when they went into the flying position. Which is more economic all, road travel or air travel? Bear in mind, you have to travel to an airstrip.
DesignerJSL
I agree; however, you have to keep in mind your priorities. This is a prototype, and not only that, it's an experiment. Flying cars will need to progress a lot before they become commercially viable, but this could be said about all designs and inventions. The light bulb was terribly inefficient the first time Edison made it, but as the years go by, and more people take the plunge and try something, no matter how it turns out the first time, we eventually build up the experience to turn the concept into a fully-fledged and useful product. If we didn't start somewhere, we wouldn't go nowhere. You're judging the car by production standards. And anyway, it looks cool!
Vincent Bevort
Did you look at the razor sharp tail? I don't understand that can be road legal.
brickandfanal
Carbon fiber has bankrupted every aircraft manufacturer who has dared touching it. Burt Rutan is the exception that confirms the rule. Boeing with its model 787, largely built from carbon fiber and with +1000 orders is not even sure to make a profit. So Aeromobil should stick to the old test and true method of aluminum sheet and rivets. As pointed out by Grunchi, it’s not going to be a good plane nor a good car, there are too many compromise, so I don’t think that there is a commercial future for this project, except perhaps for some emirs or son of emirs in the Gulf states with too much money burning a hole in theirs pocket.
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is a really nice design. I can see the creators aritistic talent in its design. I hope he gets the funding to make it. Of the flying cars out there, this is - IMO - the nicest looking one. My Dad had an idea for something like this. His ideas was to have the gas engine connected to a generator and have the wheels and propeller connected to electric motors. To swich from one to the other only required a switch and not complicated gears and/or drive shafts.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Grunchy, I don't think the problem is whether or not it is excellent at both functions, but its more of a question of what transportation need is this trying to fill? Is the solution intended to satisfy the daily commuter? The weekend city-hopper? The business executive who oversees multiple geographically distributed facilities? Or the globe-trotting adventurer? Until there is a viable market, the product will be a hard sell. And, I'm not saying there's not one for this... I get the impression that the greatest cry for these sorts of solutions come from the multitudes of average, middle-class, working blokes who have a seething hatred for traffic jams and stop lights. (If for some reason this is unfamiliar to you, simply rent the movie "Office Space" for a humorous demo.) But as for striking the proper balance of capability for road vs. air, I would definitely lean heavily in the direction of air-worthiness. This, unfortunately, leaves road-worthiness relegated to the realm of neighborhood-only capability (ie. keep it off the freeways, eh?) But, I feel this is okay, assuming the air part included VTOL or STOL features, and the aforementioned neighborhoods contain designated take-off & landing zones. Then, we get back to the notion of mass-market... not sure I like the idea of traffic jams in the airways.
Kaido Tiigisoon
I would see those as a rental craft. Because their main use is NOT to have one vehicle and save money from owning 2, but the cross-country traveler who wants to connect some airfields by air and some by ground.
Rehab
It is so fantastic to see those who dare to try the near impossible that will become main stream. Perhaps the answer to the flying car is to take a small great plane and find a way to make it street legal. I know I'd be much more concerned about the flying ability than driving! [Perhaps you might be interested in the PD-2 conversion kit, at http://www.gizmag.com/plane-driven-pd-2-raodable-aircraft/23552/ - Ed.]
Richard Auchus
What ever happened to the PAL-V? That thing looked probably the most promising out of any other flying car, next to the Maverick.