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Is it a flying car, an aerial bike, a gyro-copter or all three? Special

By Adriana Stuijt     Apr 24, 2009 in Travel
For many years, people have been dreaming of a flying car for fast door to door transport. Next week, the Dutch are test-flying a first model of their Personal Air and Land Vehicle. But is it a flying car, an aerial bike or a gyrocopter? You decide!
A model of the Dutch flying car, the Pal-V, is being test-flown in traffic for the first time near Amersfoort on Monday, April 27, said Mr Robert Dingemans, of the company Pal-V in a telephone interview in The Netherlands. They won't however be flying the Pal-V's first prototype, emphasized Dingemans: they will only fly 'a model outfitted to test the combination of auto-gyro and the car in traffic conditions.'
Its developer, Dutch entrepreneur John Bakker, took six years to get his Pal-V from the drawing board to these working models - and the toughest job was to get official permission to test-fly one of them in actual traffic situations. It's actually a combination of three-wheeler bike with a unique tilting mechanism and an auto-gyro.
Bakker said in a recent interview that he had started the Pal-V purely as a hobby. The businessman is an keen ultralight pilot, and became frustrated over the fact that he couldn't just land in his own backyard with this machine. He always had to go to the nearest airfield to fly his aircraft and then land on airfields without transport to get him to his destination. His hobby thus grew into a serious project, starting on the drawing board. "And before you build a prototype model, you should always first look into the rules which apply to both road- and air traffic,' he said. see
While his concept-design took on form on the drawing board, he was also getting feedback from aviation and road-safety experts, such as the technical fundis at Delft's Technical University and the National Air- and Aerospace Laboratory. And based on their expert advice, the design's development grew steadily. see
When the government's traffic department published a report which called for the design of a car which could fly low to supervise traffic flows and reduce the infamous traffic jams on its freeways, he submitted his design and obtained government subsidies to help develop it further. There's been very keen interest from both the traffic- and policing authorities in The Netherlands for this design.
Driver's and Small-Craft Pilot's license:
The local regulations are all still being ironed out before the Pal-V can be used legally. The Dutch authorities have already determined that all its drivers would have to have both a driver's and small-craft pilot's licence.
Prototypes wrapped in secrecy:
And there is of course also a great deal of secrecy surrounding the development of this next generation of personal transportation worldwide: to find the safest and most efficient flying car, prototypes are being developed in other countries, all basically claiming to be 'the world's first flying car'. See
The main barrier all these designers still have to break through however, is to get local authorities to set up new regulations and to adjust current regulations for traffic safety -- in the air and on the ground -- before they can even start testing it legally. The Dutch designer has been working closely with the local authorities to get all these regulations ironed out. It's clearly an uphill battle: also because traffic rules for the air and on the ground are controlled by different authorities.
Culmination of six years of hard work:
The first test-flight being planned for April 27 in traffic on a freeway near Amersfoort thus is the culmination of six years of hard work for this entrepreneur and his team of partners. The car's three-wheeled tilt-wheeled design is based on the copyrighted Carver motorbike body. see my previous article about this unique bike here
Usually flies below 1,200 to 1,500 metres:
Airborne, the PAL-V One would be flying below 4,000 feet (1,200 m) MSL. This airspace is in most countries available for uncontrolled VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flights, so there will be no interference with commercial air traffic.
There have been many designs for flying cars in the past. However this new model might just fit the bill: its designer John Bakker says on his company's website that the PAL-V One is a hybrid of a car, a motorbike and a gyro-plane (auto-gyro): a personal air and land vehicle: "A solution to increasing congestion in our cities, highways and sky-ways."
He says that on the ground, the slim line, aerodynamic 3-wheel vehicle 'has the comfort of a car with the agility of a motorbike', thanks to its patented cutting-edge ‘tilting’ system by Carver. The single rotor and propeller are folded away until the PAL-V One is ready to fly. see
The PAL-V One is highly fuel-efficient and powered by an aircraft-certified engine, the company says. It runs on petrol like a conventional car and can reach speeds of up to 185 km/h (125 mph) both on land and in the air, depending on the wind conditions. Its straightforward gyro-plane flying technology means that the PAL-V One is economically and technically a rational form of air travel.
Like a helicopter, it has a Very Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (VSTOVL) capability making it possible to land practically anywhere. It can be driven to the nearest airfield or heliport and, if not using controlled airspace -- can take off without filing a flight plan.
The gyro-plane technology means that it can be steered and landed safely even if the engine fails because the rotor keeps auto-rotating. Of course the PAL-V then has to descend and land immediately in this case -- however because it can land on a proverbial “postage stamp”, it would in most cases not cause any problem. Lift is generated by the rotor and the forward speed needed for auto-rotation is produced by the foldable pusher propeller.
Quieter than a helicopter:
It is much quieter than a helicopter due to the slower rotation of the main rotor. A licence to fly the PAL-V One is easier to obtain than for a helicopter, the company maintains.
Digital freeways for traffic safety...
"In the United States and also soon in Europe the infrastructure is being put in place for 'digital freeways' that provide easy and safe corridors using GPS technology to aid regulation and prevent collisions for low flying vehicles."
"What makes the PAL-V One attractive is the convenience of fully integrated door to door transportation, providing smooth transition from road to air without having to change vehicle.
The plans are for the first Pal-V vehicle to go into full service around 2012. Besides the traffic authorities' test-flying the car, there has also been very keen Interest from the Dutch coordinating police services organisation, the KLPD. Police officers who are following suspects would be able to fly over traffic by switching on the auto-gyro, thus making pursuit and subsequent capture much easier. The flying car also would be cheaper and quieter than the police helicopters now in use - and safer..
However the company also hopes to market it for assembly-line production with competitive automotive prices eventually. There's for instance, already many hundreds of thousands of microlight pilots worldwide who would form a lucrative source for this design.
The prototype's current performance shows that it reaches a maximum speed of 180 km/h (125 mph) on the ground. using one litre of fuel for every 16km average. Its maximum rate of climb is 800 feet per minutes. Its range is 800km (500 miles).
The minimum airspeed where level flight can be sustained is 50 km/h (27 kts), claims the designer on its website.
Flying from The Netherlands at 150 km/hour, it could reach Paris within two hours - less on windless days. see
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