AirCar: Above the Clouds
The speedometer shows 110 km/h, the sleek car, a two-seater convertible, hums along quietly. But something isn’t right. The chassis feels strangely sluggish and the wheels don’t seem to stick quite right to the road. Maybe things will get better at higher speeds? Accelerate to 120, 130 . . . phenomenal! The nose begins to lift, the front wheels come off the ground, you pull the steering wheel a few inches toward you, hold it steady, and see only sky through the windshield. Sky! The car is flying! It flies over roads, rivers and railway tracks, climbs up in an elegant left turn and approaches the clouds.
Two and a half meters per second, a fabulous figure. The air today is cool and dense, which helps the engine, and the thermals provide some extra lift. Cruising altitude: four hundred meters. The 1,600-cc motorcycle engine, a reliable six-cylinder unit from BMW, purrs gently, good for a relaxed 160 hp.
The aircraft, a prototype by the name of AirCar, is helping to make a dream come true. The dream of flying cars, probably as old as the car itself. In America, countless small companies have dedicated their time and energy to this subject for decades. We count thirty-six start-ups alone, which can be separated into classic runway starters and VTOL aircraft.
Klein’s prototype, resting here in the hangar of the airfield in Nitra in western Slovakia, has the distinction of really looking like a supercar.
That stands for vertical takeoff and landing and sounds practical, but they are noisy and kick up a lot of dust. There are wheeled gyrocopters, which look a lot like small helicopters; modular concepts in which a passenger cabin is picked up by roaming flight modules; all-terrain buggies suspended from paragliders. Ideally, the future of flight is electric. But ninety percent of these inventions look more like flying machines instead of cars
The concept behind the folding wings is captivating to see.
The transformation takes around two and a half minutes.
Štefan Klein from Slovakia takes a different approach. Already thirty years ago, he wrote his engineering thesis on the subject of flying cars. He was involved in the AeroCar project, a serious venture, but left after a difference of opinion to develop the AirCar with his own company, KleinVision. Since 1994 he has also headed the Studio of Transport Design at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, the alma mater, among others, of current VW design chief Jozef Kabaň (formerly of Bugatti, Audi, Škoda, BMW and Rolls-Royce).
Klein’s prototype, resting here in the hangar of the airfield in Nitra in western Slovakia, has the distinction of (…)