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Volante: A Look at Design and Prior Flying Car Efforts


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Also see "The Role of the Flying Car."

What Type of Flying Car Should I Own?

This brings us down to two types of flying cars, for both of which airfields figure into some phase of their usage.

1. The " leave a piece at the airport" (LPA) type of flying car, which leaves the flight component at the airport when the car drives away. You must return to the same landing place to fly again.

2. The "take-it-all-with-you" (TAW) flying car, which does just as its title suggests. Post landing, in some fashion, all of the parts go with you, so that you can travel to another airport to continue your flight again.

There are two types of vehicle in this latter category. I borrow Lionel Salisbury's "Roadable Times" definitions here.

a. The integrated flying car with wings and empennage that fold and store aboard, plus a prop that is simply stopped and disengaged, leaving you to essentially drive an entire, albeit folded up, airplane on the highway.

b. The modular flying car. In this case the car becomes just a car. The flight component lifts off to wait at the airport until you return or it folds into a trailer or some such appendage and can conveniently be left behind or taken with you.

First, Consider the LPA flying car.
This machine is less complex to build, requires fewer licenses to operate, and may well satisfy some people's needs. You are still stuck with hangar or tie-down rent and significant operating restrictions, such as how to get it to the airport initially, and always having to return to the same airport to continue your journey by air. These limitations are not applicable to the next category under discussion.

Next, the TAW flying car category:

First, the integrated machine.
This is basically a folded up airplane for highway travel. This machine sounds ideal however it too has some penalties. One of these depends on the sophistication of the designer (spell sophistication as complexity and cost in almost all of the units I've seen). It is relatively easy to conceptualize such a design but far more difficult to practically deal with the machinery to make it happen reliably as well as the conflicting CG requirements of a car and an aircraft, fuel storage space and so forth. I now have what I consider to be a practical solution for this design, but, although easier to convert, it still doesn't fit with my view that most users will undoubtedly be driving a lot more than they are flying and thus will be better served with an immediately available, more practical highly economical car,(60 to 80 mpg) that does not expose the entire airframe to " expensive to repair" highway damage.

As Paul Poberezny said in April 1976:

"All who have owned airplanes know that their investment sits on the ground probably more than 95% of its lifetime, either in the hangar or tied down out in the elements. As I have often said, one must have a strong love for aviation to tolerate such a vehicle."

Why not get some usefulness out of your investment when it isn't flying?

Next the modular flying car.
I chose this for the Volante for several reasons. I didn't think the world was ready for the integrated machine on an economic basis. It may well be that unit production cost at 100,000 vehicles or more per year will be low enough for a large number of pilots to own, but it will be some time before the market develops to that point. In fact, I chose the kit route for initial introduction, because I think the flying car has to demonstrate its projected value before any entrepreneur will invest the magnificent sums required for automotive type serial production which is the only other route I can see to really low cost airplanes. We really need to learn the "real world" contribution a flying car makes within the aviation spectrum before we know what it should look like, how it will operate, what are its economies, all of its pros and cons, considered within an evolutionary framework which simultaneously deals with necessary regulatory and facility changes. Incidentally, with all of these uncertainties, my hat is off to the current group of entrepreneurs working on such machines. We each think that we know what the market needs and we may all be right for the segment to which we cater.
Number of engines
This is a decision one has to make no matter what type of flying car one builds and the choices are between one engine for flying and driving and separate engines for each function. I have built both types and find that from a weight and complexity standpoint it makes littlr difference.

The Volante has two engines for several reasons
1. Aircraft engines are expensive to overhaul and if you use the car section as a second car and do a lot of driving you do not want to accumulate the driving miles and have to log them as "engine time." Automotive engines are relatively inexpensive to maintain and overhaul.

2. Power required to fly is much in excess of that to drive, and a better engine match can be achieved if the proper size engine is available for each function. Mileage per gallon is also better when a matched engine is used for driving and here is where an unexpected bonus accrued to the Volante car. Because it is so light and streamlined one can expect to get between 60 and 80 miles per gallon, great with today's four dollar per gallon gas which might rise even further.

3. An aircraft engine is designed to run at high power and "get by" when on the ground. Too much taxiing will often result in fouled plugs. Alternatively, spark retard, power limiters and a cooling fan can be added as Molt Taylor did with the Aerocar, again a complication probably requiring FAA testing and approval.

Again I want to emphasize that I am trying to build a vehicle that will bring more people into aviation at lower cost and more usefulness not just appeal to the elite few. I did many configuration drawings and even built another flying car prior to the presently flying design.. As I said above, even this No. 2 design has evolved further in a production model that I will show you later. I tend to have to learn by experience and what I think I have learned is that "the devil is in the details," You don't want to need a large toolbox and to service a lot of complex fallible machinery when you land on a dark rainy night in "Nowheresville, USA."

I think that with the Volante I have achieved a design that will provide the largest number of presently recognized flying car advantages with both minimum cost and complexity. On top of that, the practical dual use of the separable car makes a lot of sense, as well. Not to be overlooked is the fact that completion of the flying car provides the builder with a useful interim product along the way to flight, as well as justified "bragging rights" even if he takes a vacation from his project for a period of time at this plateau. Looking at an " all or nothing" aircraft kit project has often resulted in the " nothing" choice by an inexperienced builder. Needless to say, this design, in contrast to many integrated designs, will also allow all of the ease of use of the LPA machine. In fact, if an LPA machine meets your needs, it is your choice to build when you buy a Volante kit.

This paper is intended to complement the second paper which follows, entitled "The Flying Car Can Revolutionize Private Aviation" so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the "nickel and dime" advantages and disadvantages of owning a TAW flying car. I'll just list a few below. Remember, the flying car is both an automobile with all of the simplicity, ease of operation and versatility of that 20th century creation, PLUS it is an airplane with an excellent cruising speed. There is no hangar or tie down rent - you drive the whole thing home and keep it on one side of a two-car garage avoiding outdoor weathering costs or hangar rent..

The Volante is:
" A second car.- The car can be driven daily from the garage without disturbing the flight section. (60 to 80 mpg). See it fly!

" Transportation (for sure) at a destination. Not all airports have rental cars which are a pain in the neck anyway.
" A practical alternative to an instrument ticket- You can land and drive through the weather instead of trying to push through with all too frequent disastrous results. This turns out to be the most important advantage in the "Revolution" paper
" A vast time, reliability and convenience advantage over the scheduled airlines for mid length trips, particularly since 9/11

Volante Two in flightThe vehicle shown to the right is the second Volante designed and built by K.P.Rice. The original made some 300 flights and the car portion was driven frequently. That machine was dismantled to provide components for the new design. The same car was much modified for use in the current Volante


Volante One in flight

Volante One as a carThese pictures show the first Volante in flight and road configurations.





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