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Thread: Carplane Developers Criticize BiPod…and Burt responds

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Oshkosh, WI

    Carplane Developers Criticize BiPod…and Burt responds

    Last week, EAA received an e-mail from John Brown, project manager of Carplane, a German government-sponsored aviation firm developing a roadable light-sport aircraft, regarding an analysis of about Scaled Composites Model 367 BiPod.

    John writes, “Our team got together last week to analyze what's currently known about Burt Rutan's BiPod. (Attached are our thoughts.Rutan BiPod, Analysis.pdf) It appears there have been 5 BiPod versions within the first week, some of them morphing between conventional 2-surface & advanced 3-surface configurations. Furthermore, neither the measurements nor some of the claimed attributes seem to add up. Perhaps your editors could shed light on some of these questions.”

    Brown’s comments about changes in the first week seem to be a reference to the first story EAA ran on the BiPod on July 17 (which was updated on July 20), and the more complete story that ran in July 28 issue of AirVenture Today after Burt gave a homebuilders chat about his latest design during AirVenture Oshkosh 2011.

    When asked for a comment on Carplane’s analysis, Burt wrote EAA, saying:

    “Time does not permit a detailed answer to this PowerPoint. However, for now suffice it to say that he has made many wrong observations based on poor measurements of photos or graphics. The BiPod, in phase one testing has proved itself on the skid pad and at freeway speeds in strong crosswinds to be a very road-worthy vehicle. Gee, he complains that we have too much drag as a car but not enough drag as an airplane!!!

    “Note that I am breaking my rule here by paying any attention to his analysis - I usually have a rule to comment only things that are flying, not someone's untested concept. The carplane, like the TF, will likely have very poor airborne performance and efficiency as well as a very noisy, high vibration propeller with blades that move in and out of the wake of forward components (Like my old VariViggen). Like I said at Oshkosh; if you cannot cross the Rocky Mountains to get to Oshkosh, you really do not have a practical airplane.

    “I will have no further comment until after we have a race....both in the air and on the ground."

    What are your thoughts?

  2. #2
    steveinindy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Personally, I look at the "roadable airplane"/"flying car" ideas in much the same way I look at the various permutations of electric aircraft. It's interesting but only as something of a distraction due to the lack of practical applications and the debilitating level of function associated with the modern state of the technology. As I said before, I doubt I'll ever see widespread application of electric aircraft in my lifetime. I don't think I will ever see widespread use of flying cars due to a limited market and human factor aspects.

    That said, the last person I want to get into a pissing for distance contest with regarding aircraft design is Burt Rutan.
    Last edited by steveinindy; 08-11-2011 at 07:14 PM.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Midland, Mi
    My thoughts are that the car/plane concept is one of the most impractical concepts in aviation. Not being noted for being practical, I'd like to have one just to be able to wheel it out in the field and go.

    However I do see great possibilities for both military and those living in remote areas, but not for flying into or even near urban areas. Using one in urban areas with the traffic and parking would not be worth the risk. I'd also have have some very strong reservations of leaving one in a parking lot for and afternoon and then taking to the air in it without a major inspection before flight.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Hillsboro, Oregon / USA
    A plane I can park in my garage, drive to airport, takeoff, and fly is wonderful ... but I'm not going to invest any time or energy in one that holds two people, is ugly, is uncomfortable, flies slow, and gets 12 miles per gallon (of leaded gasoline.) McGinnis is right. First we need to make flying fun and affordable again. The trip to the local airport is a minor inconvenience.
    Richard Johnson, EAA #395588

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    I have no doubt that the German team is quite enthusiastic about their project, and in that enthusiasm, they have lost a bit of perspective. More importantly, they either don't know who is Burt and what he has done for the aviation, or chose to completely disregard that.

    Roadable aircraft has been tried several times in the history of aviation, without (practically) any success. There were some recent developments that again showed promise. However, throughout the decades of aviation, since the first attempt at such aircraft, Burt has been pursuing all sorts of aircraft designs, steering well clear of roadable aircraft concept. Until now.

    As an idea, roadable airplane has often been a secret dream of very many amateur (and quite a few professional) aviators. Throughout the history, it was clear that it was impractical for myriad of reasons. I'm still quite convinced that those reasons still exist. However, what changed my mind about feasibility of the concept is the fact that Burt (i.e Scaled) has now picked up the concept and started playing with it. As has been said before, whatever Burt decides to make, it will be EXACTLY what he set out to make, fulfilling every single design requirement that he put in front of him. If anyone can make this aircraft feasible, it is Burt.

    The German team would do well not to enter into a "pissing contest" with Burt (as SteveInIndy said above).

  6. #6
    Eric Witherspoon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Tucson, AZ
    One that I think has some shot at success is the Maverick. Because rather than creating an airplane hobbled by roadgoing requirements, they made a kick-butt dune buggy and put a soft (read very light, very easy to stow) wing on it. Their design concept is intentionally NOT to cater to someone wanting to "park an airplane in their garage at home and drive it to the airport".

    I think the concept of a relatively capable off-road / unimproved road vehicle that can get up in the air in a small area for a short hop either to cross an otherwise uncrossable obstacle or to just get up a little for a look around is much more likely to see some commercial success than anything attempting to run on paved roads with traffic. EXTREMELY impressive was that they DROVE it from Florida to Oshkosh in 2010 (not sure what they did in 2011, but they were there again).

    For any of the other "flying cars" out there, the market, at least to me, is completely unclear - millionaire who has everything? The whole land-it-and-drive-under-the-weather idea seems like a dead-end - especially if your "flying car" is LSA - I'm not flying my LSA unless the weather is well into VFR.

  7. #7
    The Helodyne website ( on their FAQ page has a different twist on roadable aircraft concerns, getting through the "gate" at the airport, especially if it isn't you local airport, for which you have a pass/permit for (

    I know at one of our local airports, if you didn't have a security badge and you land after say 6:00 pm, you could be there awhile.

    I prefer amphibious VTOL, let's go direct door-to-door, or direct door-to-boat dock.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    As an engineer, I think Burt has the right idea regarding his policy to keep his mouth shut and not respond to these kinds of things. The German company is just trying to gain some kind of marketing advantage from a "competitor" and is probably just talking out their rear-end. If I were in Burts shoes, I would not release enough info for another company to make educated guesses about my design until it was ready for market. The fact that the German company is trying to outguess another company (and Burt of all people) shows how desparate they are for attention to their own product.

    I think it's time for this other company to put-up or shut-up if they are going to go down this path, and Burt can just sit back and bask in the glory that he has already created.

    Just my $0.02

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