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back to article Your Flying Car? Delayed again, but you WILL get it, says Terrafugia

Not long ago the famous Massachusetts startup Terrafugia caused something of a stir by releasing details of a new electric hybrid flying-car design, the TF-X - though the company is now very late in delivering even its less-radical Transition design. The Terrafugia Transition in flight tests accompanied by chase plane …

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Trouble is ...

As a pilot, I don't want one. I have proper aircraft.

And, also as a pilot, I don't want TheGreatUnwashed to have easy access to my airspace ... They can't do 2D maneuvering, much less 3D ... or more importantly, 4D.

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Re: Trouble is ...

"...my airspace"?

When you're on the ground do you drive an Audi by any chance?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trouble is ...

Yeah, those 4D manoeuvres are a bugger. One slip and your back in 1989

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Re: Trouble is ...

The great unwashed already have access to 'your' airspace. I was flying about in it last week on my paraglider* and climbed a big hill carrying a 20kg pack to do it. Definitely needed a shower after that.

* No qualification legally required, but training is highly recommended!

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@ AC Re: Trouble is ...

What he means is the ability to realise if you continue on your present course or take that manoeuvre, then in 10 minutes you will intersect with something else, eg. the ground, restricted airspace, another flying car or an airliner.

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Re: Trouble is ...

".....I have proper aircraft....." One designed for safely landing on short strips, whereas the latest whimsy from Terriblefugup looks like it will have such a tiny wing surface area as to make low-speed approach turns instant stalls, followed by a quick spin into the ground! It looks like it will have the wing loading of a Lockheed Starfighter, which means either they will have to make the wings much longer or transition to assisted lift from the rotors at very high speeds, say 200mph, which I'm not even sure they power plant could deliver. All in all, even disregarding the massive gap between the reality of electric/battery power and their design requirements, as a flying machine it looks a complete death trap. IMHO, anyone still investing in these clowns needs their heads examined, and anyone actually willing to fly the eventual product probably won't live long enough to get their head examined!

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@ Neil Charles, Matthew 3, etc. Re: Trouble is ...

Dear non-pilots, the term "my airspace" refers to that bubble of air surrounding "my aircraft" into which it is dangerous for any other "not my aircraft" to intrude. Given that the great unwashed have substantial difficulty keeping from intruding into "my roadspace" and seem content to think that mere inches of clearance is sufficient, I shudder to think what will happen when they are released from flatland and have to think and manoeuvre in 3D space.

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Re: Zaphod.Beeblebrox Re: @ Neil Charles, Matthew 3, etc. Trouble is ...

"Dear non-pilots, the term "my airspace" refers to that bubble of air surrounding "my aircraft"...." Yeah, I find ATC does a good job of covering the blind spots. Seeing as it is highly likely any "flying car" will be very tightly restricted in where and at which flight levels it can be a mobile hazard, they will probably present no more risk than you do now.

"..... Given that the great unwashed have substantial difficulty keeping from intruding into "my roadspace"....." Many years ago there were many that insisted the common man (let alone any woman) was simply too ill-educated and unfamiliar with machinery to be allowed to drive an automobile. That belief was shown to be cobblers too. The key to mass flight will be control through training and regulation, just as used today to ensure most motorists get through the day without killing each other. And if the system can be made largely automatic then the risk is even further reduced, to the point where you in your non-automated light aircraft actually become more of a risk. Besides, one thing that seems common to all the Terriblefugup ideas is that they are all so hideously expensive so as to make them completely out of the reach of the "great unwashed", so I don't think you or I will have to worry much during our lifetimes.

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Re: Trouble is ...

Don't concern yourself too much Matt. Their heads WILL get examined but it'll be by a coroner.

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WTF?

Center of gravity...

...and the center of lift. The animation for this thing just doesn't add up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trouble is ...

"IMHO, anyone still investing in these clowns needs their heads examined, and anyone actually willing to fly the eventual product probably won't live long enough to get their head examined!"

You ignore the idea that given rich ego-maniac idiots a deathtrap might be a good idea. Those crappy Robinson heliocopters looked like they'd fit the bill, but sadly all we got were a lot of roll over and touchdown writeoffs that left the rich berks to limp away.

I say bring it on, and encourage the gormless rich to try it out.

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Re: Zaphod.Beeblebrox @ Neil Charles, Matthew 3, etc. Trouble is ...

@Matt Bryant,

As a pilot (be it for unpowered aeroplanes only) I can safely say that history and experience has already shown that NOT everyone is suitable for flying. Anyone who can learn to drive can learn to fly. Not everyone capable of safely operating a car on a busy intersection is capable of safely flying an aircraft in a busy situation. Keeping track of 6 other aircraft in close proximity to yourself, your own flightpath, speed and altitude and still paying attention to directions from air traffic controllers in a 3D situation is enough to overload some people. Training can help, and a lot of people CAN learn to do it, but some will simply never manage it.

We are also FAR (very very very far) from being able to automate aircraft to the point where they could manage themselves at all times. Especially in case of engine failures or simply a loss of power (which happens quite regularly in GA). This is also why putting runways inside of built up areas is a BAD idea. Landing shortly after takeoff with only limited altitude and speed just requires space to land. Which wouldn't be available.

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Stop

Re: AC Re: Trouble is ...

".....Those crappy Robinson heliocopters....." Sorry, I can't agree with that. I've been for several rides in R22s and an R44 without any hitches, roll-overs or other disasters, and they seemd quite neat little 'copters. I hear the original models had a problem with delamination of subcontracted mainblades but that has been fixed.

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@ imanidiot

"Anyone who can learn to drive can learn to fly."

I'd have to disagree, though I could probably agree with "most people who can learn to drive can learn to fly".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trouble is ...

Based on local evidence, more likely a Porsche Cayenne.

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Well it really is 4D

With a car you can just stop when things get aa bit ahiry. With a fixed wing you have to keep going. That means you don't just worry about where you are (3D), but where you are going to be there. That adds another DOF.

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@Matthew 3 (was: Re: Trouble is ...)

"When you're on the ground do you drive an Audi by any chance?"

Nope. Most of mine are pre-1970 frame-up restorations.

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@AC 09:19 (was: Re: Trouble is ...)

"Yeah, those 4D manoeuvres are a bugger. One slip and your back in 1989"

X, Y, Z, and time. 4D. The fact that you don't grok that should worry your nearest & dearest.

BTW, that's "maneuvers" ...

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@Neil Charles (was: Re: Trouble is ...)

Fortunately for me (and you!), my aircraft are never actually in that kind of airspace. Why? Because there is no point. Similar for actual gliders (I got my ticket off of Sutton Bank in the early 1970s, and am still a member of The Yorkshire Gliding Club, despite being a native Californian.

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Pint

@Not That Andrew (was: Re: @ AC Trouble is ...)

"then in 10 minutes you will intersect with something else"

Exactly ...

Beer. But remember, 48 hours between bottle & throttle.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 09:19 (was: Trouble is ...)

The fact that you equate spatial dimensions and time is a lot more worrying

3D is usually read* as real vector space which does not include time

*unless the reader is an idiot

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Anonymous Coward

manoeuvres

Is on of the correct spellings

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Re: @Not That Andrew (was: @ AC Trouble is ...)

48 hours!! What the hell do you drink?? One unit of alcohol is processed in about one hour, so any reasonable drinking bout is gone in about four hours, and an entire bottle of wine in about twelve! The alcohol count in the body 24 hours after the last drink will be as close to zero as makes no difference. You'd be more impaired from from the coffee with breakfast.

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@Intractable Potsherd (was: Re: @Not That Andrew (was: @ AC Trouble is ...))

I choose to not drink for 48 hours before I go flying. Most of the pilots I know use "24 hours between bottle & throttle". Most of the alcohol might be gone in 24 hours, but the fusels, esters, aldehydes, tannins & other bits & pieces of the chemical soup that makes up fermented beverages seem to hang out quite a bit longer.

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@AC:1032 (was: Re: @AC 09:19 (was: Trouble is ...))

"3D is usually read* as real vector space which does not include time"

So you park yourself in one position in your conveyance of choice? Perhaps you should purchase a tent instead of a vehicle. We were discussing aircraft in the RealWorld[tm], weren't we?

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@AC11:31 (was: Re: manoeuvres)

"Is on of the correct spellings"

If you say so. Ta :-)

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Re: Zaphod.Beeblebrox @ Neil Charles, Matthew 3, etc. Trouble is ...

I agree with you mostly, except on the point that we would be far from being able to build a craft that can handle it self at all times. We got mostly all the tech that is needed.

Profitability and bureaucracy is though a big challenge for making it happen. The same problems that almost stopped Orville and Wilbur, not to mention media.

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Re: @Neil Charles (was: Trouble is ...)

Is that Yokuts, Yana or some different tribe?

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Re: @Intractable Potsherd (was: @Not That Andrew (was: @ AC Trouble is ...))

Your quite correct, even if your on the extreme side. As you are a pilot i do commend you.

Still some people condemn someone that takes 1-2 units (above that is of personal capability) of beer or wine and jumps on the throttle (i refer to cars here). To put things in perspective being a little tired, having your thoughts on other things than driving or just the kind of person who isn't so well coordinated. Is just as or even more dangerous than a couple of beers in traffic.

Perspective is usually lacked when discussing these matters. If you go for a enforce 0 tolerance, in return you also have to ban eating certain fruits before driving or flying, neither would a little bit aged fruit of any kind be suitable. Doing that is ridiculousness, and therefore so is a zero tolerance view.

However what we personally decide to do, is a different matter. And I commend you for this, that you said "I choose to". I guess I would be happy to be a passenger, that is if you would do some acrobatics. ;)

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Re: jake Re: @Neil Charles (was: Trouble is ...)

If we suppose that - somehow - Terriblefugup do get the technology to get either of their monstrosity designs airborne in numbers, they will actually be less of a hazard than other craft such as hot-air balloons. I was a passenger in a light aircraft that had a close miss with a hot-air balloon (literally saved by the experienced pilot's quick reflexes alone). Ever since I have stopped referring to glider pilots as the moped drivers of the air.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC:1032 (was: @AC 09:19 (was: Trouble is ...))

"So you park yourself in one position in your conveyance of choice? Perhaps you should purchase a tent instead of a vehicle. We were discussing aircraft in the RealWorld[tm], weren't we?"

3D = a position in 3D space

maneuvers in 3D space = transition from one 3D coordinate to another w.r.t. Time

save the 4D for the ultrasound marketeers

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Re: @Intractable Potsherd (was: @Not That Andrew (was: @ AC Trouble is ...))

"......Still some people condemn someone that takes 1-2 units (above that is of personal capability) of beer or wine and jumps on the throttle (i refer to cars here). To put things in perspective being a little tired, having your thoughts on other things than driving or just the kind of person who isn't so well coordinated. Is just as or even more dangerous than a couple of beers in traffic....." Having been in a serious accident with a drunk driver early in my driving experience I took the line of zero tolerance from an early age. The difference with tiredness versus alcohol is, even when you are mentally tired, your body can still make very quick trained reactions (when was the last time you had to think about how to make an emergency stop as opposed to just reflexively doing it?), especially with a kick of adrenaline. But even a little alcohol can seriously impair your reactions and judgement.

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Holmes

@Matt Bryant re: Close miss...

Yeah, those hot air balloonists really pull some amazing high speed stunts don't they? You never know where they're gonna be in ten seconds time.

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FAIL

Re: @Matt Bryant re: Close miss...

"Yeah, those hot air balloonists really pull some amazing high speed stunts don't they?...." Dear moron, you may want to consider that hillsides and mountains don't pull "amazing high speed stunts" but aircraft regularly collide with them. Balloons are completely dependent on the prevailing wind, so if there is high wind at the level they are at they can reach a good enough speed, but even hovering they can be a hazard to aircraft if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. In our case, we were jointing the circuit to land at an airfield as bad weather was coming in and the cloudbase was already down to 1000ft, and trying to keep out of the way of some trainees doing circuits, when a lost balloon blew across the airfield. We missed him by feet - if we had hit him we would all of been killed. He should never have been up in that weather.

"...... You never know where they're gonna be in ten seconds time." In theory, balloonists are only supposed to launch into clear skies when favourable winds are forecast. In practice, given the changeable nature of UK weather and the low number of really good days, it is common to see balloonists up in questionable weather and even amongst clouds, very stupid given their low radar signature. In the crowded UK airspace that's simply too stupid for words. But collisions even occur in clear weather, between slow paragliders and balloons(http://www.examiner.com/article/paraglider-and-hot-air-balloon-collide-over-arizona-air-show).

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Re: Fake flying car

Upvote just for avoiding the W word.

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Ru
Childcatcher

Re: Fake flying car

A real flying car is jet powered

Pfft. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang used a piston engine.

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Re: Fake flying car

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterman_Arrowbile piston powered in the1930s but looks like the bastard offspring of a Heinkel bubble car and one of Geoffrey T. R. Hill's "pterodactyl " aircraft (Hill was designing aircraft that would be very resistant -if not actually immune - to stalling or spinning)

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Ru

Re: Fake flying car

Waterman Arrowbile piston powered in the1930s

That's a neat little toy. And its specs aren't a million miles away from the Transition, either... evidently the most important bits of light aircraft technology haven't actually come very far in the last 90-odd years. I guess Waterman didn't have to worry about modern sport-pilot licensing or roadworthiness requirements, of course.

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Joke

Re: Fake flying car

The only reason they don't use windows is because they're afriad it'll crash. Gives blue screen of death a whole new meaning.

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FAIL

The transition was a nightmare, their new terror will never be fielded

How could you like the Transition?

Totally butt ugly, and worse, it was a 200K "road car" that you would be scared to drive on the road due to fears from potholes or rocks, or scared to park in a grocery store parking lot due to fears of fender benders.

And complex way beyond what is needed or safe.

And that continues on with the TF-X with tilt rotors that tilt and collapse and yield to an even different engine in flight.

Are these really MIT engineers?

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Pirate

"tilt rotors that tilt and collapse"

Looks like the rotor tips move from about waist height to head height as they spin up and down...

Better not be standing too close to that thing when it takes off... or land it in a crowded space!

<-- it was the only icon I could see with sharp blades on it!

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Re: "tilt rotors that tilt and collapse"

What about maintenance routines?

Helicopters flying to the oilrigs in the North Sea have regular maintenance checks, to the point of having their engine & gearbox disassembled and put back together. And those suckers still occasionally fall out the sky.

I've seen many a car held together with string and gaffer tape. What are these car-planes going to end up like?

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Boffin

Re: "tilt rotors that tilt and collapse"

You have to ask why did they go to the extra complexity of folding rotors when they could simple feather them. true, a feathered rotor would still be quite draggy, but it would be simpler, use existing tech, and not require the additional weight and juice of the motors and hinges for unfolding into the airstream prior to landing. All in all I'd have to say this is even more of a fantasy design than the Transition.

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TFX?

The impression I get from reading the online archive of Flight (Flight International) is that the 20s and 30s and then the 50s and 60s were periods when everyman and his dog was turning out designs. Light planes that could take off in little space on small engines, designs for home builders, inventive (though probably delicate) creatures of spar and tube and fabric. Several VSTOL ideas, many of which were heard of no more.

I think most of the designers probably understood there was some element of walking before they could run. Its good to be thinking of the next design, but not to put too much effort in before the first is at least mostly finished. Is this some form of pyramid scheme, the punters investments on the first model being used to fund the development of the next, or marketing to build up the company image?

Talk up bold ideas for the next design but get it running on fossil fuel first before transitioning to a something involving electrical power. In the past new aircraft designs got developed in parallel with engines they would hope to power them ( RR Vulture and Avro Manchester, not the best example I know) but those were at least iterations on existing ideas.

PS - sorry bit rambley, cup of tea not yet done its job

PPS -TFX always makes me think of the General Dynamics F-111.

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Happy

An intriguing road map

I'll note they talk about 3 landings where the vehicles is going from forward flight to sitting on the ground. IOW once the rotors are up to speed it could be more a case of them autorotating and acting as spinning parachutes.

The take off pulse is nothing like a Tesla's cruise load. It's nearest equivalent would be more like that of a fully loaded Tesla at a stop light drag race when the driver floors it. That profile suggests completely different choices for the power electronics and the batteries. I'll note the Russians were claiming a super capacitor powered bus running in 1993 with the necessary capacity. A lot depends on how long that takeoff transition lasts. A 1 sec takeoff with a 5 sec charge time would probably snap necks. 1 minute takeoff would probably need the whole vehicle to be a battery. It's another vague CGI detail.

I like Lewis's plan to build out from the current model. I'm not quite ready to believe this is scam but if the want to be taken seriously they need to focus on putting something in the hands of their paying customers. Sometimes SF is a very bad guide to what to expect for V0.9 tech. As they are learning just making a car that can fly (never mind hover) is (in the words of Elon Musk) "Super damm tough."

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Meh

Niche

It's been tried so many times and it has failed so many times.

The biggest problem is that it is such a niche and expensive product not enough people will want to buy it to make it profitable.

A car can be efficient, an aircraft can be efficient but a car/aircraft is a compromise. Another dead end.

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Anonymous Coward

Pie

Pie in the sky.

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I smell horse feathers

"A megawatt of power lifts you". That's 1,341 horsepower. Golly!

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Holmes

Re: I smell horse feathers

Personally, I think I'd have a lot more fun with 1,300hp confined to the ground...

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