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Thread: Carplane Developers Criticize BiPod…and Burt responds

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by vasic View Post
    Conceptually, road-able aircraft (or carplane) has the ultimate utility, as it can get you anywhere and everywhere. And the only reason we don't have it today is because of conflicting regulatory requirements for road and air travel. The regulation will continue to exist (and may only become even more restricting), but if anyone can find even the minuscule area where the two sets overlap, and within that overlap build a roadable aircraft, it is Rutan. If this design does end up successfully meeting requirements for both road and air (regulatory, as well as utilitarian), it is entirely likely that it could become the more popular than C172.
    I agree with you. Although, if you have a look at Carplane's design you'll see that it already meets the regulatory requirements for road and air travel. Rutan is extremely capable, but his initial concept vehicle is a long way behind players such as Terrafugia and Carplane right now. As a potential customer I'll be overjoyed if there are multiple options (competition tends to reduce prices!) but right now Carplane is running second only to Terrafugia in terms of maturity of the project and ability to execute.

  2. #22
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vasic View Post
    I'm not sure if it is because of my limited aviation experience (compared to other members here), but I can't understand how has a road-able airplane "very limited utility"? Primary reason for not flying more often is, for many of us, the hassle of getting to that airport and back. This explains why there is an abundance of real estate advertising for air parks (homes with direct runway access) in aviation magazines. Even for those who have the convenience of having their aircraft very close to their home, there is that hassle of moving around once we land at destination. Conceptually, road-able aircraft (or carplane) has the ultimate utility, as it can get you anywhere and everywhere. And the only reason we don't have it today is because of conflicting regulatory requirements for road and air travel. The regulation will continue to exist (and may only become even more restricting), but if anyone can find even the minuscule area where the two sets overlap, and within that overlap build a roadable aircraft, it is Rutan. If this design does end up successfully meeting requirements for both road and air (regulatory, as well as utilitarian), it is entirely likely that it could become the more popular than C172.
    Well... as far as utility, lets do a bit of a thought experiment.

    Is is truly a car? If it were, you'd use it for commuting. But I've had cases where I've driven to work and a snowstorm hits. I've had to drive home on snowy, slippery roads. Do you *really* want to risk a carplane in such conditions? Are there type-certificated snow tires?

    So the carplane is treated like a plane, and stays in the garage except when you want to fly. This means, for most of us, a *car* has to sit outside. A bit of a pain, in many parts of the country.

    But OK... let's assume the carplane sits inside the garage until you need to fly someplace. After work on a Friday, you load it up, drive to the airport, unfold the wings, then take off and fly to an airport ~400 miles from home, landing there at about 10 PM.

    So, you're at your destination, driving what amounts to a $200,000 car. You're hungry. Are you going to park that nearly-quarter-million dollar carplane unattended in the Denny's parking lot at midnight?

    What about the hotel...what kind of security does their parking lot have?

    Where *are* you going to be willing to drive that carplane in that unfamiliar city? What if you stop at the grocery story and some lets a shopping cart roll. It creases the wing skin. Sure, you can DRIVE that 400 miles home, but you still need an A&P to fix what a normal car would just shrug off with a paint touch-up stick.

    You leave the carplane unattended after dark, and those big, broad wings are going to be VERY tempting to "taggers." And all that fancy electronics, clearly visible through the cockpit windows.

    Couple that with the ordinary risks a car suffers (and can handle far better due to thick steel skins and robust construction), and that $200,000 investment is going to be in danger. How much do you think insurance will run?

    Your best solution on a trip is to park it somewhere that has some security and the general public doesn't have access to. That kind of place is called an "airport."

    That leaves the ability to store the plane at home as the only real advantage of the carplane. But how much is that worth? If you can buy a good used four-seater for $100,000 vs. $200,000 for your carplane. If you keep the plane for ten years, that's $10,000 a year you're paying for the privilege.

    That's over twice what my hangar costs me, and I live just seven minutes away. AND can park both my cars in the garage at home.

    The $5,000 a year left over would go a LONG way towards a rental car when you fly cross-country to another town.

    Aviation has been toying with roadable airplanes nearly since Day 1. There have even been type-certificated examples that have gone into production...but haven't generated enough sales to keep going.

    I think it's a fun goal, and certainly fun to watch, but really don't see that much utility in it....

  3. #23

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    Agreed. This is one of those many things that is counter intuitive. It sounds like a great idea, but in the real world even ignoring the regulatory worlds of airplanes and automobiles airplanes are fragile, vulnerable, and expensive. Cars by nature are build much more solidly and they are heavy. The problems of flying into a strange airport after hours are no different than doing so with an airplane...unless you want to drive it out the gate and then get back in later. We already have to be careful where we fly and when if we want to get out later in the evening and the rules don't always follow for small airports. some have far more restrictive access than others.

    But the mixing of a fragile, expensive airplane with lots of expensive and attractive toys inside with normal traffic and parking lots is something I'd want to avoid. So reality reduces the practicality of the air/car roadable airplane to something less than ideal. I have little doubt that some one like Burt could design something that would work well in both worlds, but you can not eliminate having to mix the environments in which they operate. As I said before, I see great promise for military use and isolated civilian use, but I do not see the concept as being practical in general.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    That leaves the ability to store the plane at home as the only real advantage of the carplane. But how much is that worth? If you can buy a good used four-seater for $100,000 vs. $200,000 for your carplane. If you keep the plane for ten years, that's $10,000 a year you're paying for the privilege.
    You raise some interesting questions; I guess every owner of a Ferrari sports car faces the same challenges in regard to security (and it undoubtedly diminishes the utility of owning a super car). The numbers I've heard so far for roadable aircraft are between $100,000 to $200,000. $200,000 seems to be the price you'd pay if you were an early adopter, before volumes increase and economies of scale kick in. As I understand things the price would reduce to low $100,000s as volume picks up. In that case the comparison with your used four-seater in a hangar starts to become less of a problem. My vision of the Carplane would be to keep it in my garage when I'm at home, but if I take a trip it may well stay at the airport for the reasons you mentioned. Hangar costs for a couple of days over a weekend are negligible; it's the bulk of the year when your used four-seater is sitting in a hangar at the local airport that would hurt. Clearly Carplane would not be a vehicle to use to go pick up the groceries at the local supermarket, but if you look at the possibilities rather than just the negatives I think you'd come up with some practical uses.

    For example I imagine there would be government agencies interested in the concept. The police force and military (as Roger suggests) for example. I'm guessing there would be enough practical applications to get the volume up enough to get the price down to the volume range. That of course will be the acid test. When a paradigm-shifting product hits the market it often takes a while for all the potential uses to emerge. Sometimes such products fizzle, sometimes they take off in ways noone expected. Isn't it great that we have people like Terrafugia, Carplane and Scaled willing to take the risk and to push the boundaries into new markets? We can all watch from the safety of our lounge-rooms, and take advantage if all goes well.

  5. #25
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    Great discussion. What Ron Wanttaja said... I agree with everything... saved me a lot of time composing a post!Burt has said in the past that he gets interested in a project when about 50% of people think it's impossible and about 50% of people think it might be possible. So I can see how he might get interested in a flying car. Despite rock solid argument that it's an impractical concept, the dream simply refuses to go away. Joe Corn's book "The Winged Gospel" is quite good on how the idea of the flying car goes back to Day 1.I agree with the person earlier in the thread who said the Maverick flying powered parachute is a good effort.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Whiley View Post
    ...The numbers I've heard so far for roadable aircraft are between $100,000 to $200,000. $200,000 seems to be the price you'd pay if you were an early adopter, before volumes increase and economies of scale kick in. As I understand things the price would reduce to low $100,000s as volume picks up.
    So they anticipate that a roadable aircraft can be sold for less than today's typical Special Light Sport Aircraft?

    At high volumes, this certainly is possible. The problem is, who do they sell them to? The purchaser has to have a pilot's license, so your market (at least in the near term) is limited to those who those who are already rated, and have shown a marked reluctance to buy new $100K+ aircraft. The US is hard-pressed to sell just 1,000 new production airplanes per year as it is. What kind of production levels are needed to get the price down to less than a quarter-million? If you go to Ford and suggest they build 20,000 cars of a given model per year, they'll just laugh at you.

    Again, there have been roadable aircraft on the market before...and the general public didn't rush out to get pilot licenses so they could buy one. What's different now?

    The fundamental problem is that the general public does NOT want a "roadable aircraft." It wants a "flying car."

    There's a HECK of a lot of difference. A car is easy to operate (turn, go, stop) that doesn't fall off the road if the driver goes too slow or if it gets hit with a gust of wind (well, other than my old VW Beetle, of course :-). To go somewhere, just follow the signs, turning the wheel left and right as needed. The rules to follow are always right in front of you (Speed Limit, Stop, Yield, etc.) If you get lost, just hit the stop pedal and think for a while or step out and ask directions. If you make a minor mistake, you might crease some sheet metal but you probably won't get hurt. If a storm hits, you can usually still get home. If worst comes to worst, you're riding in a steel cage with airbags.

    Ask a non-pilot what they'd want in a carplane, and there's generally one major response: "If I get stuck in traffic, I want to just take off and fly over it!" Yet none of the proposed vehicles give the owner that option.

    If your carplane doesn't at least APPROACH the above, you aren't going to interest the general public. The only thing the current crop of carplanes offer is "You can give it home and park in your garage." This doesn't do anything for the general public. "Of COURSE I can park it in my garage... where else would I park it?" They're not attuned the problems faced by aircraft owners, so this magical ability to fold the wings just leaves them blank-faced.

    If you're limited to just licensed pilots for a market, the volume must isn't there. If you want to sell it to the everyday public, you're going to need to develop it to the point where nearly anyone can operate it.

    On the late (and unlamented...thanks, Hal) Oshkosh 365 site, I once made a long posting on how I thought we should be integrating modern computers with General Aviation aircraft. It boiled down to the operator flying solely through an autopilot that gave the operator a simple interface (take off... land at X... go higher...turn left...) and completely isolated the driver from aerodynamic controls (or the need to understand them). The autopilot kept the thing from stalling, kept it out of prohibited areas, kept it above legal heights, avoided other traffic, etc.).

    You'll need this system if you're going to sell the carplane to the public...plus a VTOL ability.

    Good heavens. I just described the Moller Skycar.

    Ok you need simple controls, VTOL, and the ability to leave for work at 6 AM without waking up six city blocks with your eight shrieking Wankel engines. And, of course, one that actually flies....

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Whiley View Post
    For example I imagine there would be government agencies interested in the concept. The police force and military (as Roger suggests) for example.
    I like to think of myself as a reasonably imaginative guy. My job is inventing new space systems to solve Government problems. I've had two fiction novels published. I've got a third novel (unpublished, sadly) that actually explores the societal impacts of flying cars.

    But I can't come up with a good military or police use for carplanes as they are currently proposed. Ones with VTOL capacity, yes, but not the folding-wing types that require takeoff runs.

    Let's say our two cop heroes are sitting in the Nearsville precinct house, and a call comes in. Bank robbery in Farburg, twenty miles away! They rush out to their carplane sitting in the station's parking lot, flip on the lights and the sirens, and hit the road. Five minutes later, they're rolling down the runway at Nearsville (the station house was built at the airport for just such a situation). Ten minutes later, they touch down at the Farburg airport. The bank is fifteen minutes away from the airport, so they show up there a half-hour from when the call came in...about the time it would have taken to drive there, unless the streets had total gridlock

    A report comes in that the two robbers' getaway car has been spotted a few blocks away. Our heroes race off, and spot the stolen red Porsche. After a long, exciting chase the carplane catches up (after all, it has 454 CI engine and a complete police suspension package) and the bad guys spin out and crash. They haul the perps out of the wreckage, cuff them, lead them back to the police carplane...

    ...and stand there pondering, because there are four of them, and the carplane only seats two....

    Ron Wanttaja

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZackBaughman View Post
    I'm 99% certain that the Rutan BiPod prototype was NOT at Oshkosh. If someone knows more, please feel free to correct me.

    Zack
    That is correct. The only 'Flying Cars' that were at Oshkosh were the ones that came in via truck. The only one I saw that had actually flown was the Taylor Air Car.

    Burt's plane has not flown off the initial 40. As is typical of Burt, his designs either fly in or are not there at all. It would be a compromise of Burt values to truck one of his designs in.

    I doubt seriously if Burt is entertaining getting into the flying car biz. I think this is more about raising the bar.

  8. #28

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    I think the real world practicality of a useable flying car is under-estimated in some of these posts. I also think the real world practicality of regular (light plane) GA aircraft as transportation is frequently over-estimated. The flying car may be criticized because it only cruises 100 mph whereas my whizbang REAL airplane will cruise 160 mph or 180 mph or whatever. But they fail to note that the cruising speed of even a 200 mph conventional airplane is 0 mph while it’s on the ground waiting for weather to improve.
    Many times the 100 mph slowpoke will get to the destination first while it takes to the highway during the bad weather while the regular airplane sits on the ground waiting for weather to improve. Cemeteries from coast to coast have residents that tried to make their airplane practical transportation by circumventing the weather. It’s called “get-home-itis. When I started flying many years ago in a J-3 Cub, the mantra was: “If you’ve got time to spare, then go by air.” Today, fifty years later, that can still be good advice.


    Even the AOPA has admitted that if it’s really important to be somewhere by a certain time on a certain day, you should take the airlines or drive. (They put it a little more nicely by saying: “GA should not be the only egg in your transportation basket.”)


    One hears how great it is to make a given trip in a 172 in only three or four flying hours whereas it requires eight or nine hours driving in the family buggy. They’re usually talking about flying time versus driving time, not comparing door to door time in the two modes. When you take the car, you load it with the junk you want on the trip (usually two or three times the junk you can take in the 172) and go. With the airplane, you do that and then drive to the airport... and park the car, and load the airplane after unloading the car, and do a pre-flight, and taxi to the ramp and do a runup, and then you take off, conveniently not counting the one or two hours or more, depending on your distance from the airport, that adds to the door to door time. And then of course, do it again in reverse at the destination.


    And how much time do you spend planning a three or four hundred mile trip in a car? Yeah, me neither. But when taking the airplane, are you counting the time checking the weather daily starting three or four days before the trip, and getting out the sectionals, drawing the lines, calculating the gas stops, planning the alternates? Time for that varies with our experience and familiarity with the route, but it is real additional time for the airplane, especially if we want a safe trip.


    When all the time spent for the trip with the airplane is considered, it usually is not nearly three times quicker in the plane than the car. And if weather intervenes, the car can be quicker.


    Of course, if we’re talking practical transportation, then cost should be factored in. Let’s see, acquisition, maintenance and upkeep costs in the family runabout vs. the airplane... holy #@$%#!! And the auto overhead can be reduced by using it on shorter trips to Walmart, etc., no contest there.


    From what I have read, we already would have a relatively low cost useable flying car if it were not for that great group of guys that are always there to help us, the FAA. Molt Taylor’s final version of his flying car used a Honda Civic as the core for the car part. He talked with Ford about producing it. They were interested and said if they made it, they would start with a minimum of 20,000 units per year production. (How would that affect the hardware costs?) Then Ford talked to the FAA. The FAA told Ford in no uncertain terms they would not want to see 20,000 new airplanes a year produced as they would be unable to regulate them in the way they regulate airplanes. Ford, not wanting to get in a battle with the federal government, immediately lost all interest in building them.


    In conclusion, I would say that a modest useable flying car, in conjunction with much needed de-regulation of private flying, would be the biggest step possible toward making private aviation actually practical as transportation.

  9. #29
    Ron, in general I agree with you. The market for flying cars is largely for already licensed pilots, not the general public. You mention the the US market only purchases 1,000 new production aircraft each year (I don't know the numbers myself so I'll assume yours are correct). The FAA website shows the number of active pilots in the USA at the end of 2009 as 594,285, of which 211,619 are private pilots (http://www.faa.gov/data_research/avi...atistics/2009/). The vast majority of these pilots hire flying school aircraft when they fly. It would be interesting to better understand the reasons for the reluctance of pilots to own their own aircraft. In my case it's tied to how I use private flight as a means of travel. The car is more convenient as a means of getting to a weekend destination and the hassles I experience in organising a flight include factors such as negotiating a minimum number of flying hours with the aircraft operator (by way of compensation for the plane being "off-line" for the busy weekend days), and other factors that are tied to flying someone else's aircraft. Obviously personal factors such as cost, convenience, safety, etc. are important as well.

    Now, I wonder what percentage of licensed pilots would be likely to own their own aircraft if some of these factors were improved? How much would the cost and convenience factors need to shift to change the 1,000 units per year to 2,000, 3,000 or even 4,000 and beyond? With a potential addressable market in the 100,000s, you would'nt need a very large shift in the percentage to double, triple, quadruple the current volumes.

    Obviously a car-plane is not going to be used to catch bank robbers in the act, any more than it would be used to do grocery shopping (reference your earlier scenario of a shopper losing control of his/her shopping trolley)! To put this scenario forward as your best shot of imagining how a car-plane might be used by the police, and then shooting the idea down is the way a straw man argument works. If you're a published fiction writer with a well developed imagination I think you can do better than that, Ron!

  10. #30

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    I think they're using only two legs of the tripod of the truly versatile vehicle the on-the-go person with an adventurous, glamorous lifestyle and huge amounts of disposable income demands .

    Yes, to be successful the "roadable aircraft" must also be a boat.

    Think of all the time and expense saved! Park the plane/car/boat in the garage and save both space and expense of a hangar and a marina spot.

    Just imagine the convenience of flying to an airport convenient to your favorite fishing spot, driving to the boat ramp and onto the water. In the whisk of an eye you could be flying over the lake and then pulling in bass through an open window (Ronco pocket fisherman not included) without ever having to leave the luxuriously appointed cockpit/interior/bosun's chair.

    I think I'll trademark autoboata'plane before somebody steals my idea.


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