Finally, A Sensible Flying Car ... Maybe

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In our years in aviation, we've seen countless variations on the "flying car" theme, from rickety jalopies with wooden wings bolted on to high-tech dream machines with folding wings and James Bond-level slickness. But a recent report from the fringe strikes us as something so simple that it might actually work. The Parajet Skycar is a variation on the powered parachute. Beneath the canopy flies a small two-seat, dune-buggy-style off-road car with a powered fan on the back. After landing, the pilot can simply pack up the chute and drive away three minutes later. A lightweight design, advanced aerodynamics and a Yamaha motorcycle engine (which runs on biofuel) make it work, says the company. The Skycar is easy to fly, impossible to stall, and features an emergency ballistic parachute system. The aircraft can launch in less than 700 feet, fly at about 70 mph, and has a range of about 200 miles. In "road mode" it can travel 250 miles at speeds over 100 mph. The company plans to prove the Skycar's capability by traveling from London, above the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar, and across the Sahara Desert to Timbuktu, a journey of almost 4,000 miles, in January 2009.

The Skycar "will be the first high-performance, road-legal, bio-fuelled flying car capable of providing sports and rally car performance on or off the road and light-aircraft performance after just a few minutes of wing preparation," says the company. They are already working on a "next-generation road sport model" that could be available by 2010. No word yet on what the vehicle will sell for.