The term flying car may seem a little imprecise. In order to meet regulatory guidelines, currently many of the vehicles that are under development are more like manned drones or vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL). But, a prototype that has just reached an important milestone really fits the description of the flying car.
A Slovak company, known as Klein Vision, recently completed its inaugural intercity flight between Nitra and Bratislava airports. At the end of the 35-minute journey, the vehicle’s inventor, Professor Stefan Klein, pressed a button to fold the wings and steered the car along an asphalt road towards the house.
The company has been working on its hybrid aircraft for over three decades. With 142 successful landings and more than 40 hours of test flights, Klein is convinced that his third prototype is ready to move beyond the conceptual phase.
As part of its latest advance, the two-seater AirCar achieved a cruise speed of 170km/h, slightly below the maximum of 190km/h. Klein says the car flew at 8200 feet and achieved steep 45-degree turns as part of its maneuverability tests. Unlike VTOL vehicles, the AirCar requires a runway for takeoff and landing.
The current prototype is equipped with a 160HP BMW engine with a fixed propeller and a ballistic parachute. Klein has even bigger plans for what comes next. It claims that the 300HP pre-production model will receive CS-23 aircraft certification for standard, utility, aerobatic and switch planes from European aviation regulators, along with an M1 road permit.
In reality, getting there can still be challenging. The company will have to cross a thin line between a light aircraft and a more substantial vehicle with comprehensive health and safety precautions. However, there are signs that regulators are more inclined towards the idea of flying cars.
In the US, the Federal Aviation Authority recently awarded a special certificate in the Light Sport category (S-LSA) to Terrafugia’s road plane, making it legal for flight.