A vehicle capable of flying in the sky and driving on the road completed a momentous journey this week.
Stefan Klein, founder and CEO of research and development company Klein Vision, drove his prototype AirCar to Nitra international airport in Slovakia before motoring down the runway and taking off. He then flew the 35-minute route to Bratislava and, after landing at the city’s airport, drove the two-passenger vehicle to the downtown area three minutes away. A video (above) shows key moments from the incredible ride.
Klein has been developing a flying car for the last 20 years. His vehicle has already taken more than 140 test flights, but this week’s outing was the team’s most ambitious effort to date.
With the simple push of a button, the dual-mode vehicle retracts/deploys its wings and tail in a mere 135 seconds, enabling it to hit the road or take to the skies.
The gasoline-powered AirCar uses a BMW engine and a fixed propeller. It has a maximum cruising speed of 119 mph (190 kph) and has flown as high as 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). The next version of the AirCar is expected to have a top cruising speed of 186 mph (300 kph) and be able to travel as far as 621 miles (1,000 km) on a single tank of fuel.
There has been growing interest in so-called “flying cars” in recent years — Digital Trends profiles some of the leading designs — though most vehicles can only fly and have no ability to transform into a roadworthy automobile. However, unlike the AirCar, many of the vehicles can take off and land vertically, making them ideal for travel in urban areas. They’re also electric, whereas the AirCar currently requires gasoline.
Still, Klein’s focus has been on something that’s truly worthy of the “flying car” label.
“This flight starts a new era of dual-transportation vehicles,” the inventor said in a release. “It opens a new category of transportation and returns the freedom originally attributed to cars back to the individual.”
Of course, for Klein’s unique vehicle to go mainstream, it’ll first have to convince regulators of its safety and durability, while owners of the AirCar will have to have both a pilot’s license and a driver’s license to obtain the full benefit.
With all that in mind, it may be some time before we see Klein’s flying car on our roads and in our skies, but we can surely all agree that it’s one cool-looking machine and a remarkable achievement.