...Moller Gets Skycar Competition

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If the folks at Ohio University make the breakthrough they're predicting, let's hope they let Paul Moller in on the secret. After 30 years, Moller's Skycar is likely the most long-lived of the fly/drive dream and about 75 of the faithful turned up at a recent shareholders' meeting to hear the latest news. Moller told the group he's hoping to be at the controls himself when the M400 Skycar makes its first untethered flight over a man-made lake in California sometime next spring. The M400, with its four rotating nacelled engines, has broken the surly bonds, but always with a tether. Moller said the advent of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and other technologies necessary to permit widespread use of "personal aircraft travelers" will help make the dream more accessible. Hoping that the Skycar's past performance is the best predictor of its future behavior, another California company, AMV Aircraft, is also closing in on a test flight and Popular Science is already on the story. a href="http://www.avweb.com/newswire/9_32a/briefs/185448-1.html">As AVweb told you in our coverage from AirVenture 2003 in August, the AMV aircraft is built around a ducted fan powered by a souped-up Mazda rotary engine putting out 450 hp. Owner Attila Melkuti told AVweb engine tests pointed to the need for stiffer blades on the fan and he hopes to have them finished in mid-December, when he hopes to fly the aircraft for the first time. So far, the engine has been run up to 4,000 rpm with a propeller blade speed of 1,000 rpm and the aircraft was pulling on its restraints. For all its power, however, Melkuti said the aircraft is remarkably quiet -- at least at the lower test speeds -- with a whoosh from the fan and a low-toned roar from the well-muffled engine. "It's not noisy at all. It won't bother the neighbors," he said. He said the Popular Science photo crew spent most of Monday at his shop as part of a feature story for a future issue.