A Flying Car, Future
A flying car is not a difficult design or manufacturing challenge. The AEROCAR 2000 design is not a compromise as a car or an airplane. The Lotus Elise is a wonderful two-seat sports car. It is fast, fun and economical. The price is $30,000, this is within the range of most other two-seat sports cars. Only the Elise uses an aluminum chassis, fiberglass body, aluminum brakes, lightweight four-cylinder engine, and needs no power brakes or power steering. For a flying car design, the automobile is the more complicated part of the machine. However, for flying, the car represents all the complicated and expensive parts of an airplane. The Elise is mass-produced, so it already has the cost benefit of production volume. The AEROCAR 2000 may be less expensive than a pure aircraft—homebuilt or production.
The flight module portion of the AEROCAR 2000 is simple and its components are just shapes, not systems. Its flight engine is an automotive Lotus V8 that costs $30,000 for 350 to 500 horsepower! An equivalent horsepower aircraft engine would be heavier and twice the cost! This engine is also EPA approved and uses regular auto gas. The AEROCAR 2000 will fly just as well and just as fast as the most popular production private aircraft in use today.
The ADVANCED GENERAL AVIATION TRANSPORTS EXPERIMENTS was formed by an act of Congress in 1992 by NASA and the FAA. Its purpose is to revitalize the general aviation industry by applying present and emerging technologies. It is a consortium of government, industry and academia. It began with identifying the future market potential of a simplified private airplane for personal transportation. It would reach this purpose in four steps; improve the present general aviaiton aircraft; develop new general aviation aircraft types; bring increasing levels of automation and autopiloting to the personal airplane and finally, to introduce a type of airplane which is a sufficiently simplified and automated aircraft that an FAA Private Pilot’s license will not be needed. This requires the application of many PRESENT technologies to simplify flight operation and navigation. The AEROCAR uses these technologies-even in its first prototype.
AGATE is made up of members of industry, universities, and government. Combinations of the members operate in specific work groups to solve specific problems. For example, there are work groups dealing with powerplant management systems, flight in known icing conditions, navigation display systems, collision avoidance systems, human factors engineering, certification issues, etc. Each individual member brings into the work group its own expertise. All members of the AGATE program share information and results. The consortium is exempt from specific rules of the Sherman AntiTrust Act. Each member is indirectly pledged to bring its product to market. To the government, this means jobs.
AEROCAR, Llc. has been a member of the AGATE consortium for four years. It is not a participant in a work group at this time. However, it will be in the near future. In effect, a practical flying car is the ideal end result of the AGATE purpose. It brings general aviation to the general public. AEROCAR 2000 uses almost all the programs in AGATE. By being a member, AEROCAR, Llc. Is also on a "fast track" program to eventual certification of a production AEROCAR by the FAA. This is a benefit to all members.
The AEROCAR 2000
The AEROCAR is a practical multi-use vehicle. Design range is 300 miles with a cruise speed of 138 mph. It will be the most useful and economical means of personal travel for any distance from 75 to 300 miles. It can certainly be used for longer or shorter trips too. A commuter might use the AEROCAR for daily travel of only 50 miles to work. Connection time to change from car use to airplane use is only 30 seconds by one person, so its use should be no problem. In the busy metropolitan areas, the market for the AEROCAR is huge. The AEROCAR 2000 is an ideal personal transportation system.
No new infrastructure is needed for AEROCAR operation. The present airport facilities will do just fine. The wings of the flight module are capable of being folded back along the rear fuselage, so several flight modules can be stored in a small airplane hangar. An FAA licensed Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic can service the flight module, while any garage can service the car.
The AEROCAR 2000 presently designed can be available as a homebuilt within four years. A production, ready-to-fly/drive AEROCAR should be ready, as the many technologies and certifications mature, within 10 years. Its market plan is unique.
The production AEROCAR will be a new vehicle, perhaps even a new car. A user would own his own car, but lease the flight module at the "airport". A variety of cars might be designed to share the flight modules. A flight module would be permitted to an individual car owner for a specific flight route and back. Flight modules would eventually be available around the country. Some individuals would own their own flight module. Very interesting vehicle concepts have been proposed by AGATE members.
A frequent assumption about commuter travel is that the helicopter or a vertical lift vehicle might be ideal. It is not. None of us wants our neighbor to descend into his yard next door. Any vertical lift machine MUST displace a mass of air equal to the weight of the machine. That is a serious tornado of energy blowing everything around and making too much noise. Another reason is the practical limitation and expense of operating a vertical lift machine. All its components are highly stressed and need a lot of maintenance. Finally, the operation of a vertical lift machine requires great skill and training. Unless someone invents, antigravity, vertical lift is not a good candidate for personal transportation.
Who is the Customer?
The customer for the AEROCAR 2000 is a pilot and a driver. Some homebuilders are making ultra-high-performance homebuilt airplanes which costs over $200,000. They are fabulous 200 to 300-mph airplanes, but get used only occasionally because they are intended for long distance travel. Others build planes for fun. The homebuilt market exists throughout the world. No one has been offered a multi-purpose useful airplane kit, until the AEROCAR.
Today, the homebuilt airplane business is the most healthy segment of the aviation market. In the short term, the present design AEROCAR 2000 is intended for the homebuilt aircraft market. A customer would assemble his own AEROCAR 2000 from a highly prefabricated, and fully FAA approved, kit. In fact, the builder is the manufacturer of the aircraft. The kit, including the Lotus Elise, should sell for around $100,000. The main part of it is the car, and that is ready to drive! The wings, rear fuselage, horizontal stabilizer and rudder are manufactured parts. The interface between the car and flight module is a prewelded structure. Alterations to the car are minimal and will be prefabricated. The flight surfaces are fiberglass open structures, so the builder will have to apply the fabric covering. It should take about six months to complete an AEROCAR 2000.
The projected price, simplicity of assembly, enjoyment of the Lotus Elise and the usefulness of the AEROCAR 2000 should mean many customers all around the world. As presently designed, it is just as useful to a commuter in New York, a farmer in Iowa, or a missionary in South America.
FAA Pilot Records
According to present records, there are about 350,000 licensed pilots in the USA, world wide the total is about 900,000. Of these, about 1/3 are not currently flying.
The general aviation industry peaked in 1978 with a production of nearly 17,000 airplanes. At that time, there were three times as many pilots, as today. General aviation and personal flying was popular. The majority of pilots were in their 40’s, had earned their pilot’s license from the GI Bill from WWII or Korea and could afford a plane. They are not flying now. But, their planes have been well maintained, as required by law. The aircraft are still flying with later owners. Imagine what it would be like if we were required by Federal law to maintain our cars with same meticulous care and record keeping for 20 years! New student pilot starts have been declining since the 1970’s. It is expensive and complicated. Why would anyone want to buy a used 20-year-old plane or a brand new plane, which is no better, or faster than an old one? A new Cessna 172 single engine light plane, now back in production, costs $185,000. A 30 year old used one is $50,000. Ouch!
It is the intention of the AGATE program to reverse this trend. It is believed that when the general aviation personal aircraft has been brought up to modern design, technologies, and manufacturing techniques, new pilots will come into aviation.
The AEROCAR’s Market
As quoted by AGATE, a future airplane must be safer, more useful, and simpler to operate. This is the AEROCAR 2000. As a homebuilt, it is the ideal personal transportation vehicle. Unlike most general aviation airplanes, which spend 10 months of the year parked, the AEROCAR will be used regularly. It is the first useful airplane. We do not need to fly at 300 mph and then waste all the benefit of the speed in changing vehicles and moving baggage. Stopping costs time. Speed costs money. It is the usefulness and efficiency of the AEROCAR, which will bring the market to the AEROCAR 2000.
In 1996, Ed Sweeney created AEROCAR, Llc. with personal funds to complete the design and make one prototype homebuilt AEROCAR 2000. Because AEROCAR, Llc. is a one person operation, completion of the prototype will take several years. AEROCAR, Llc. needs to be funded and managed by a group of involved investors in order for the design to reach its full potential and market. Ed states that he is a designer and not a business manager. AEROCAR, Llc. is a sustaining member of the AGATE consortium. When AEROCAR, Llc. has a staff of engineers and managers, it will be eligible for SBIR grants and funds. These grants range from $70,000 for initial studies to $700,000 for hardware development and production.