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Thread: Speaking of roadable aircraft....

  1. #21

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    Zack, that wasn't my meaning. I'm not saying that an airplane has to make transportation economic sense when compared to a car or bus. I am all for flying for fun, ie sport aviation.
    I just think of the Terra thing as not so good as either a car or airplane.
    To me it's about like one of those 3 wheel motorcycle things, funny looking, slow in the corners, ridden mostly by aging Republicans, and still not protected from the weather like inside a car.
    If the Terra was $80K, maybe some market. But at $280K , think of all you could by for that, most any performance gen av single,late model used but in good shape, or an award winning T-6, or L-39 or T-28.
    Be careful on that Honda , a pilot friend was just almost killed in a BMW wreck.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 04-04-2012 at 03:42 PM.

  2. #22
    EAA Staff / Moderator Zack Baughman's Avatar
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    Hi Bill,

    I was NOT (left out the "not" the first time) replying to you specifically, just commenting on the direction of the thread in general. Personally, I think you are right about the Terrafugia's price point. Frankly, if I had that kind of money to spend on a "fun" airplane, I'd probably pick up an Icon and a few other things, but that's just me. Still, it'd be a heck of conversation piece to have sitting in your garage!
    Last edited by Zack Baughman; 04-04-2012 at 04:00 PM.

  3. #23
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    Interesting how the conversation has turned to whether or not a roadable aircraft makes economic sense, rather than the merits of the design as a flyer/driver.
    Not really since that is the primary issue that keeps the pipe dream of a flying car non-viable. Well, that and the disconnect between the requirement to have it light enough to fly and yet has to be strong enough to withstand the impact of a typical highway speed car crash.

    Also not to mention that a large swath of the population barely has any business being behind the wheel of a car let alone something that leaves the ground....

    Not very useful in a Wisconsin winter.
    That's simple enough to solve: don't live in Wisconsin during the winter.

    Flying is fun. Doesn't make much economic sense most of the time, but it sure can bring a smile to one's face. Seems to me the same would probably apply to these roadable aircraft being developed.
    This is true but if you want to fly, build/buy something meant to fly. If you want to drive, buy a car or motorcycle.

    If the Terra was $80K, maybe some market. But at $280K , think of all you could by for that, most any performance gen av single,late model used but in good shape, or an award winning T-6, or L-39 or T-28.
    Hell, for $280K, I could fund the majority of building myself an airplane (with steam instruments) that could take four people to Hawaii. Why would I spend that kind of cash on something that is, at best, the car and airplane equivalent of the Trabant (for those of you not familiar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant)
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zack Baughman View Post
    Hi Bill,

    I was replying to you specifically, just commenting on the direction of the thread in general. Personally, I think you are right about the Terrafugia's price point. Frankly, if I had that kind of money to spend on a "fun" airplane, I'd probably pick up an Icon and a few other things, but that's just me. Still, it'd be a heck of conversation piece to have sitting in your garage!
    A flying car doesn't have to be practical but it does need to be more practical than just using an affordable, purpose-built airplane, and an affordable, purpose-built car rental at your destination. Some people will buy into the novelty value but most aren't interested in spending a good chunk of change on something that sucks at being a car and sucks at being a plane.
    Last edited by Flyfalcons; 04-04-2012 at 03:53 PM.
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  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    But I think it will be like a Delorean, and 10 years down the road it will have little resale value.
    Or the resale value may be high due to the rarity, because I seriously doubt many will ever be made...

  6. #26

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    Zack, I concur completely on the critical importance of separating the design merits from the economic metrics. Firstly though, some factual info. The Terrafugia that flew last week for the first time is the Production Prototype(2nd generation). The Proof of Concept Prototype first flew over 3 years ago and many testing hours were flown off on it over the intervening time.

    The MIT grads that formed the company to design, engineer, develop and fly this roadable aircraft have long ago proven that it can drive and fly and therefore is unquestioned. The merits of their design is not just proven and impressive, but they have also taken the design innovation and dream of a flying car to a place that could never have been envisioned by former dreamers like Molt Taylor. Terrafugia has pushed the envelop of outside the box thinking and creativity in this category in terms of a truly practical design that creates a self-contained, convenient and simplistic reality(i.e. no attachment or detachment of any parts).

    It's a design of concept breakthrough that should be loudly applauded and appreciated for their unique contribution to the advancement of integrated land-air technology. This must remain seperated from the secondary issue/debate of economic sense and everyday practicality with the resulting criticsm and pessimism.

    Some on this forum have said here and before on another thread that the design compromises undertaken result in a lousy car and a lousy airplane. I have no idea if this is correct or not. The buyers and aircraft reviewers will let us know.

    But is it a breakthrough that will radically change the idea of personal mobility for the masses(pilot or current non-pilot alike)? The answer is an unfortunate "No" and almost exclusively because of the cost of acquisition. 3 years ago the cost was $194K. Today it's $280K. The final production aircar rolling out of the factory will be more of course. Not exactly for the masses.

    If they could be rolled out for $50K they would create a much larger receptive market willing to trade in the Family Truckster for one. Hence, it will be extreme niche market appealing to only a well healed miniscule group who see it as an affordable novelty, curiousity and a must-have new fun toy that operates as intended. And it will be an add-on to the plane(s) they already have in the hangar. So far about 25 have laid down deposits.

    In my opinion, the brilliant and talented Terrafugia designers and their financiers, in their quest to create on a scale what no others have ever done, are now blinded to the economic and market realities by their ambition, desire to overcome huge challenges, and a quest for "firsts". They can no longer see or want to see that only a handful of buyers exist.

    The company will eventually fold and/or be sold for assets but this will not deter future aircar dreamers from moving forward with their next best, big Holy Grail of aviation thing. Dreamers never die, just the dreamer. And I think we need them to keep moving aviation innovation forward.

  7. #27
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    If they could be rolled out for $50K they would create a much larger receptive market willing to trade in the Family Truckster for one.
    Dinner at the restaurant of your choosing in Oshkosh says that if that happens we see the GA mortality rate (adjusted for the increased number of flights and people involved) go through the roof. Also, of all forums (given the "*shakes fist* The FAA needs to leave us alone" attitude prevalent in the membership) this one should be the one least likely to be advocating for an aspect of aviation likely to massively increase the scrutiny of the whole of general aviation by the government as well as the press. Nothing says "new regulations coming your way" like a pile of dead bodies as the result of poor design combined with even poorer decision making abilities.

    Dreams never die, just the dreamer.
    Neither do conspiracy theories and other crackpot ideas. We're on...what? The fourth generation of UFO conspiracies and about the same for the flying car concept. Just because an idea persists doesn't mean it will eventually yield a net positive result for the world. Religions have existed for millenia and still rank as one of the leading causes of violent death in this world.

    And I think we need them to keep moving aviation innovation forward.
    Yup. But a lot of very talented and very bright folks spend their time and waste their talent on projects that aren't going anywhere. A MIT education is a very expensive and rate thing to waste on a project that is has about the same chances of survival economically as the clinical survival chances of someone shot through the medulla with a high power rifle round.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  8. #28

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    Stevieboy, others have said it on the forum, you are indeed an alarmist. How or why do you equate larger market appeal with a pile of dead bodies? It's irrational, over the top, without merit, and baseless. How can you make the unfounded statement that the Terrafugia is a "poor design"?

    I'm glad you were not born of another time...you might have been the father of the Wright brothers or Glenn Curtis. You would have killed their concept ideas.

    These MIT guys aren't wasting their time or talents. They are advancing a body of knowledge and innovation.

  9. #29
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    I haven't seen it mentioned in this thread yet, but there is the possibility that some future Personal Air Vehicle transportation system could be fully autonomous (or at least heavily augmented) once airborne. This could negate the risk of poor pilot training by removing the pilot altogether.
    學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。

  10. #30
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    Stevieboy, others have said it on the forum, you are indeed an alarmist.
    No, I'm just thinking this through instead of just engaging in wishful daydreaming about how this has some manner of practical application.


    How or why do you equate larger market appeal with a pile of dead bodies?
    Look at how frequently people have car accidents that are attributable to pilot error or shoddy maintenance. To make this idea even vaguely plausible, you're going to have to do the following things:
    1. Drive the cost to the consumer down

    2. Demonstrate to the average consumer (many of whom are afraid to fly or have an irrational fear of small aircraft in particular) how having a flying car is going to make their life more convenient. For the average city dweller, that's going to be one tough sell.

    3. Either do away with A&P maintenance requirements or somehow convince A&P mechanics to reduce their prices

    4. Either simplify pilot training to either below the LSA standard or take the pilot out of the equation all together. The former is likely to result in more pilot error crashes (hence my "alarmist" and "irrational" statement about an increased mortality rate) and the latter is likely to reduce the market among actual pilots. You start requiring 40,50 or 100 hours of training or annual or biennal flight reviews for flying car pilots and you're going to alienate those folks who only see a very slim margin of benefit/convenience under the best of circumstances. It's not alarmist to take a look at how things were before efforts to educate private pilots about safety were put into place (read as: the 1950s through 1970s). It wasn't unusual to see a body count topping 1000 to 1200 a year. Safety education has played a huge role in dropping that number (even when you adjust for the general population decrease). Think about how the average driver you cross paths with handles their car. Now imagine them at the controls of an aircraft on the RIPON/Fisk arrival at Oshkosh during the busy time. You can't cure stupidity but you also don't have to give them the means to make life more difficult for others (and potentially shorter for themselves).


    5. Find a way to keep the airlines from blocking the measures as the numbers of flying cars increase which reduces available airspace for real GA aircraft and their airliners. That's not being alarmist, that's a direct step from what they've been trying for years to do with GA. A massive fleet of flying cars would also probably have to have a redesign of the ATC system since see and avoid doesn't work in crowded airspace and if folks really want to try the "commuter flying car" idea like TDM mentions, it's probably going to work even less well once you factor in people eating, talking on their cell phones and applying makeup while at the controls (all things people do now while driving just so you don't think I'm being "alarmist" again).

    If you go the autonomous control route, who's going to pay for the system? You start charging the owners, you'll diminish the market further as it becomes more of a burden. You do it as a government based service and fund it with taxes, people (including a lot of the advocates for it now) are going to use it as an example of "big government". How about the launch and landing sites? Where are there funds and land for that in going to come from?

    There's a lot more to this than just designing a more or less functional flying car which Taylor did how long ago? That's what people seem to be forgetting.

    How can you make the unfounded statement that the Terrafugia is a "poor design"
    It's published performance statistics are pretty mediocre by either car standards or aircraft standards given its weight. That would, in most peoples' opinion make it a generally "poor design". Also honestly would you chance being in a collision with that versus a regular car? I wouldn't.

    I'm glad you were not born of another time...you might have been the father of the Wright brothers or Glenn Curtis. You would have killed their concept ideas.
    Actually, I probably would have been working right alongside them or competing with them. You seem to forget that I'm not just some guy who takes the easy way out and goes and gets one of Van's kits and puts it together. I'm a researcher and designer. Just because I don't see things the same rose-colored way you do doesn't mean I want to quash potentially useful concepts that have some grounding in reasonable application.


    Here's the big difference: The Wrights and Curtis were working towards solving a practical problem.

    The Terrafugia crew isn't. They are trying to prove something that we already know: that you can have something that both can move along the ground and fly. The problem is there is no market need for it. It's a solution looking for a problem. It's a really neat technological idea but it's not going to be a revolution or anything like that. Hell, 40 years ago when Rutan came on the scene, there were folks predicting we'd all be flying laminar flow wing equipped canards because of a bunch of folks who pushed the envelope. The problem was that each new solution opens up new problems and eventually you butt up against something that makes it simpler to go back to what has worked in the past. In the case of LF and canards, people just kept building traditional aircraft. In the case of the flying car, people are going to keep flying real airplanes and driving real cars.

    I haven't seen it mentioned in this thread yet, but there is the possibility that some future Personal Air Vehicle transportation system could be fully autonomous (or at least heavily augmented) once airborne. This could negate the risk of poor pilot training by removing the pilot altogether.
    So you go from two-dimensional to three dimensional traffic jams around cities. That sounds like a rocking good time.

    These MIT guys aren't wasting their time or talents. They are advancing a body of knowledge and innovation.
    Something is only an innovation once it generates something meaningful to society. That is the difference between simply being a technological advance and an innovation. I've yet to see any meaningful contribution come out of anything they have done.
    Last edited by steveinindy; 04-04-2012 at 10:33 PM.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



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