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Aviation: Will flying cars take off?

The prototype Detroit Flying Cars WD-1 was involved in an accident at Willow Run Airport last Friday. The two seat experimental vehicle that can double up as an aircraft or a motor car hasn't flown yet, but it was undertaking taxi tests ahead of a first flight when the incident occurred. Its not appropriate to speculate on the cause of any accident before the investigation is completed, but the reports did bring thoughts about flying cars back to the fore. The Aviation Oracle has never really subscribed to the concept, and it's now worth outlining why not.

The prototype Detroit Flying Car met with an accident last week during taxi tests. (Detroit Flying Cars)

Dream

The concept of taking to the air and winging our way above all the traffic on the roads, avoiding bottlenecks and delays, but then touching down near to the office or shopping mall is extremely compelling. One manufacturer will take a product to market next year using the advertising strap line "Fly & drive freedom" which sums things up nicely. The US firm goes on to say: "One vehicle, two modes of travel. It seats two and converts from drive mode to flight mode in under a minute with just the push of a button." Sounds wonderful.

The Terrafugia Transition will go on sale next year? Is it a portent of things to come? (Photo: Terrafugia)

Reality

But the idea that we will all - or even many of us - will be travelling in flying cars in a few years time seems rather far-fetched at present. There are some obvious practical reasons why flying cars won't see widespread use in the near to mid-term future:

  • Flying car designs are always going to be a compromise between the demands of flying and road dri