Jess Dixon's flying automobile c. 1940
Fulton Airphibian FA-3-101
The Mizar by Advanced Vehicle Engineers, August 1973

A roadable aircraft is a type of flying car. It is a hybrid vehicle that combines the flying capability of an aircraft with the option of being driven as an automobile on the ground. The roadable aircraft is typically recognized as a small plane with retractable wings that can fly in the open sky and to drive along roads. Most roadable aircraft have either integrated or modular components.

In the U.S., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has shown an interest in the concept with a $65 million program called Transformer to develop a four-person roadable aircraft by 2015.[1] The vehicle is required to take off vertically, and have a 280-mile (450 km) range. AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin were awarded contracts in late 2010 for the Phase 1 program.[2] Lockheed Martin's design was selected to continue to Phase 3.[3]


Glenn Curtiss, the chief rival of the Wright brothers, was the first to design a roadable aircraft. His large, three-wing Curtiss Autoplane was able to hop, but not fly.[4]

In 1935, inventor Constantinos Vlachos built a prototype of a 'tri-phibian' vehicle that caught fire after the engine exploded, while Vlachos was demonstrating it in Washington, D.C. Vlachos' prototype is most notable for a newsreel that captured the incident,[5] which left him in hospital for several months.[6][7]

The Autogiro Company of America AC-35 was an early attempt at a roadable aircraft. On March 26, 1936 the AC-35 was flown by test pilot James G. Ray with counter-rotating propellers. These were later replaced with a single conventional propeller arrangement. On October 2, 1936, Ray landed the AC-35 in a downtown park in Washington, D.C. where it was displayed. On October 26, 1936, the aircraft was converted to roadable configuration.[8] Ray drove it to the main entrance of the Commerce Building, where it was accepted by John H. Geisse, chief of the Aeronautics Branch. Although it was successfully tested, it did not enter production.

The first roadable fixedwing aircraft actually to fly was built by Waldo Waterman. Waterman was associated with Curtiss while Curtiss was pioneering amphibious aircraft at North Island on San Diego Bay in the 1910s. On March 21, 1937, Waterman's Arrowbile first took to the air.[9] The Arrowbile was a development of Waterman's tailless aircraft, the Whatsit.[10] It had a wingspan of 38 feet (12 m) and a length of 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 m). On the ground and in the air it was powered by a Studebaker engine. It could fly at 112 mph (180 km/h) and drive at 56 mph (90 km/h).

In 1942, the British army built the Hafner Rotabuggy, an experimental roadable autogyro that was developed with the intention of producing a way of air-dropping off-road vehicles. Although initial tests showed that the Rotabuggy was prone to severe vibration at speeds greater than 45 miles per hour (72 km/h), with improvements the Rotabuggy achieved a flight speed of 70 mph (113 km/h).

However, the introduction of gliders that could carry vehicles (such as the Waco Hadrian and Airspeed Horsa) made the Rotabuggy superfluous and further development was cancelled.[11]

Although several designs (such as the ConVairCar) have flown, none have enjoyed commercial success, and those that have flown are not widely known about by the general public. The most successful example, in that several were made and one is still flying, is the 1949 Taylor Aerocar.

One notable design was Henry Smolinski's Mizar, made by mating the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster with a Ford Pinto, but it disintegrated during test flights killing Smolinski and the pilot.

At the 2014 Pioneers Festival at Wien (Austria) AeroMobil presented their version 3.0 of their flying car. The prototype was conceived as a vehicle that can be converted from an automobile to an aircraft. The version 2.5 proof-of-concept took 20 years to develop, and first flew in 2013. CEO Juraj Vaculik said that the company planned to move flying cars to market: "the plan is that in 2017 we’ll be able to announce… the first flying roadster."[12]

List of roadable aircraft

Most roadable aircraft fall into one of two styles:

  • integrated — all components can be carried in the vehicle, or on a trailer attached to the vehicle
  • modular — some aeronautical sections are left at the airport while the vehicle is driven
Type Date/Era Description Designer/Developer Status
Curtiss Autoplane 1917 Modular airplane Glenn Curtiss / Curtiss-Wright Prototype built but never achieved flight
Skroback Roadable Airplane 1925–1942 Integrated airplane Frank E. Skroback Prototype
Autogiro Company of America AC-35 1935–1942 Integrated autogyro Autogiro Company of America Flying prototype
Waterman Arrowbile 1935–1957 Integrated airplane Waldo Waterman / Watermann Arrowplane Co. Flying prototype
Gwinn Aircar 1935–1938 Modular airplane Joseph M. Gwinn, Jr. / Gwinn Aircar Company, Inc. Flying prototype. Crashed.
Southernaire Roadable 1939 Ted Hall / Southern Aircraft Co. Flown
Jess Dixon's flying auto 1940 Integrated copter Jess Dixon Flying prototype, patent
Hafner Rotabuggy 1942–1944 rotor kite Raoul Hafner / R Malcolm & Co Flying prototype. The Rotabuggy was investigated as a means of delivering military vehicles to a battlefield.
Airmaster 1944 Modular airplane Herbert & Helen Boggs Concept
Fulton Airphibian 1946 Modular airplane Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. / Continental Inc Prototype
Convair Model 116 ConVairCar 1946 Modular airplane Ted Hall / Convair Flying prototype
Convair Model 118 ConVairCar 1947–1948 Modular airplane Ted Hall / Convair Flying prototype
Aerauto PL.5C 1946–1953 Integrated airplane Luigi Pellarini / Carrozzeria Colli Prototype
Aerocar 1946–1960s Modular airplane Moulton Taylor / Aerocar International Flying prototype
Bryan Autoplane 1953–1974 Integrated airplane Leland Bryan Flying prototype. Crashed.
BelGeddes 1954 Modular airplane Norman Bel Geddes Concept
Halsmer Aero Car 1959 Integrated airplane Joseph Halsmer Flew
Wagner Aerocar 1965–1971 Integrated helicopter Alfred Vogt / Wagner Flying prototype
AVE Mizar 1971–1973 Modular airplane Henry Smolinski / Advanced Vehicle Engineers Crashed, killing developer
Lebouder Autoplane 1973-1977 Modular airplane Robert Lebouder Flew successfully, won prizes until damaged in landing accident
AviAuto 1981–1990s Integrated airplane Harvey Miller / Aviauto Corp / Florida Institute of Technology Concept
Audi Pop.Up Next 2018 Quadcopter Audi AG / Italdesign / Airbus Prototype

Current development examples

Parajet Skycar prototype seen at the Sport and Leisure Aviation Show (SPLASH), Birmingham, UK, November 2008

A number of companies are developing vehicles, although few have demonstrated a full-sized vehicle capable of free flight.

Flying cars

  • The Parajet Skycar utilises a paramotor for propulsion and a parafoil for lift. The main body consists of a modified dune buggy. It has a top speed of 80 mph (130 km/h) and a maximum range of 180 miles (290 km) in flight. On the ground it has a top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and a maximum range of 249 miles (401 km). Parajet flew and drove its prototype from London to Timbuktu in January 2009.
  • The Terrafugia Transition is under development by a private company founded by MIT graduates.[13] It is a roadable aircraft that the company describes as a "Personal Air Vehicle". The aircraft can fold its wings in 30 seconds and drive the front wheels, enabling it to operate as a traditional road vehicle and as a general aviation aeroplane. The company planned to release its Transition "Personal Air Vehicle" to customers in late 2011. An operational prototype was displayed at Oshkosh in 2008[14] and its first flight occurred on 2009-03-05.[15] Owners will drive the car from their garage to an airport where they will then be able to fly within a range of 500 mi (800 km). It will carry two people plus luggage and its Rotax 912S engine operates on premium unleaded gas.[16] It was approved by the FAA in June 2010,[17] and its anticipated base purchase price is $279,000.[18]
  • The Super Sky Cycle was an American homebuilt roadable gyroplane designed and manufactured by The Butterfly Aircraft LLC.[19] It is a registered motorcycle.[20]
  • PAL-V ONE is a hybrid of a gyrocopter with a leaning 3-wheel motorcycle. It has two seats and a 160 kW flight certified gasoline engine. It has a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph) on land and in air, and weighs 910 kg (2,010 lb) max.[21][22]
  • The Maverick Flying Dune Buggy was designed by the Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center of Florida as an off-road vehicle that could unfurl an advanced parachute and then travel by air over impassable terrain when roadways were no longer usable. The 1,100-pound (500 kg) 'Maverick' vehicle is powered by a 128 hp (95 kW) engine that can also drive a five-bladed pusher propeller. It was initially conceived in order to help minister to remote Amazon rainforest communities, but will also be marketed for visual pipeline inspection and other similar activities in desolate areas or difficult terrain.[23]
  • The Plane Driven PD-1 Roadable Glastar is a modification to the Glastar Sportsman GS-2 to make a practical roadable aircraft. The approach is novel in that it uses a mostly stock aircraft with a modified landing gear "pod" that carries the engine for road propulsion. The wings fold along the side, and the main landing gear and engine pod slide aft in driving configuration to compensate for the rearward center of gravity with the wings folded, and provide additional stability for road travel.[24][25]
  • The Aeromobil 2.5 has folding wings and a Rotax 912 engine. It can travel at 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph) with a range of 690 kilometres (430 mi), and flew for the first time in 2013.[26][27] On October 29, 2014, Slovak startup AeroMobil s.r.o. unveiled AeroMobil 3.0[28] at Vienna Pioneers Festival.[29]

Partially flying

Road functional, or scale models flying

  • LaBiche Aerospace's LaBiche FSC-1[30] is a developmental prototype Flying Car and is an attempt to produce a practical flying car capable of utilizing today's automotive and aviation infrastructure to provide true "door-to-door" travel[citation needed]. The vehicle is intended to be parked in any garage or parking space available for cars. A design goal is to be capable of automatic conversion from aircraft to car at the touch of a button. LaBiche has flown a ​110 scale model, tested a ​14-scale model and was last reported to be working on the FSC-1 prototype for road and air testing, as of 2006. It was hoped that upon approval from the FAA, a new satellite-navigation "hands free" flight system to travel from airport to airport might eliminate the need for a pilot's license[citation needed]. Numerous safety systems and fail safes are also planned on the FSC-1, such as a recovery parachute. No news has been added to the website since December, 2010.
  • The Haynes Aero Skyblazer[31] is a development stage vehicle that uses a single turbofan engine to provide thrust in the air and to generate electricity to power electric motors for ground travel. In "car mode", a patented mechanism allows the wings to fold into the body of the vehicle, which is designed to fit into a single car garage and regular parking space. In "aircraft mode" the vehicle will have STOL capabilities and be able to use almost any public use airfield. It is expected to have a top speed of 400 mph (640 km/h) and a range of 830 miles (1,340 km). The skyblazer team has completed wind tunnel, stability and control testing and flown a ​16 scale model.
  • The Samson Switchblade,[32] by Samson Motorworks is a three-wheel concept with scissor wings. First introduced at AirVenture 2009, the Switchblade is to utilize a single motorcycle engine and ducted fan to keep the propeller out of harm's way on the ground. The wheels and propeller are to be powered by the same engine, but wheel-power only to be utilized on the ground. Development is ongoing at Swift Engineering of San Clemente, California. A predicted top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) on the ground is nearly as fast as the anticipated 160 mph (260 km/h) in the air. No parts are left at the airport after conversion from aircraft to ground vehicle, as the main wing and tail assembly retracts into the vehicle body.[33][34] As of January 22, 2013, the team has also completed flight testing of a ​14 scale model and are progressing onto building a full-scale remote controlled model.[35]
  • The Krossblade SkyProwler is a flying small-scale version of their "switchblade"-type SkyCruiser concept, using mid-air conversion between quadcopter and fixed-wing. The wing is somewhat smaller than usual as the rotors perform the lift at low speed.[36][37][38][39]
  • Carplane, Germany[40][41]


  • The Aerocar 2000 was a modular design developed in the early 2000s but never built.
  • The iCar 101 project suggests the use of Flettner rotors in roadable aircraft design to combine compactness and increased lift potential.[42][43]

Industry groups

In April 2012, the was established to be the "central resource center for information and communication between the flying car industry, news networks, governments, and those seeking further information worldwide".[44] Because flying cars need practical regulations that are mostly dealt with on a regional level, several regional associations were established as well, with the (EFCA) representing these national member associations on a pan-European level (51 independent countries, including the European Union Member States, the Accession Candidates and Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine).[45] The associations are also organizing racing competitions for roadable aircraft in Europe, the European Roadable Aircraft Prix (ERAP), mainly to increase awareness about this type of aircraft among a broader audience.[46]

Popular culture

See also


  1. ^ Warwick, Graham. Leading Edge blog: DARPA's Transformer - a Humvee That Flies Archived 2013-10-23 at the Wayback Machine, AW&ST On Technology, Aviation Week online website, April 16, 2010. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  2. ^ Warwick, Graham. "Is Darpa's Fly-Drive Transformer on the Right Road?". Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 10 September 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  3. ^ Olivarez-Giles, Nathan. "Lockheed Martin Building a Car-Transporting Drone for DARPA". The Verge. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  4. ^ Thomas Vinciguerra (April 11, 2009). "Flying Cars: An Idea Whose Time Has Never Come". New York Times.
  5. ^ Newsreel of flying car on fire on YouTube
  6. ^ "News Cameras Film Thrilling Rescue". Popular Science. January 1936. p. 29. constantinos vlachos popular science.
  7. ^ "Hard-Luck Vlachos". Special-Interest Autos. July 1974: 44. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Dawson, Virginia; Mark D. Bowles (2005). Realizing the dream of flight: biographical essays in honor of the centennial of flight, 1903–2003. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Division, Office of External Relations. p. 70. ASIN B002Y26TM0.
  9. ^ "Plane Sheds Wing To Run On Ground". Popular Science. May 1937.
  10. ^ "Tailless Flivver Plane Has Pusher Propeller" Popular Science, May 1934, rare photos in article
  11. ^ Zaloga, Steven J. (2005). Jeeps 1941–45. Osprey Publishing. pp. 37–38. ISBN 1-84176-888-X.
  12. ^ Mack, Eric. "Finally! A Flying Car Could Go On Sale By 2017". Forbes. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Terrafugia, Inc". Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  14. ^ "Terrafugia ready for road, flight testing". 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  15. ^ Haines, Thomas B. "AOPA Online: First roadable airplane takes flight". Retrieved 2010-04-15.
  16. ^ Jerry Garrett (April 5, 2012), "For $279,000, Terrafugia Transition Puts the Wind Beneath Your Wings", Wheels blog, The New York Times, retrieved 2013-04-20
  17. ^ O'Carroll, Eoin. "Flying Car – just like the Jetsons – gets green light from FAA". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  18. ^ "The Transition". Terrafugia. Archived from the original on 29 August 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  19. ^ Blain, Loz. "The flying motorcycle - road-registered and available now" GizMag, 17 April 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  20. ^ "Pictures of the day" The Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  21. ^ Quick, Darren. "PAL-V flying car makes successful first test flight" GizMag, 2 April 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  22. ^ "PAL-V". PAL-V. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  23. ^ Logan Ward, 10 Most Brilliant Innovators of 2009: I-TEC’s Flying Dune Buggy Archived 2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine, Popular Mechanics, November 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  24. ^ Budd Davisson (October 2010). "The PD-1 Roadable Glastar". Sport Aviation.
  25. ^ "Company Moves On Transformative Roadable Glasair". Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  26. ^ ALYSSA DANIGELIS. "Slovakian Flying Car Prototype Takes Off" Discovery News, OCT 21, 2013. Accessed: 22 October 2013.
  27. ^ Video
  28. ^ "AeroMobil". Retrieved 2014-10-30.
  29. ^ "VB". Retrieved 2014-10-30.
  30. ^ LaBiche Aerospace: The FSC-1
  31. ^ "Skyblazer Flying Car – a Roadable aircraft". Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  32. ^ "Switchblade". Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  33. ^ Bayerl, Robby; Martin Berkemeier; et al.: World Directory of Leisure Aviation 2011-12, page 118. WDLA UK, Lancaster UK, 2011. ISSN 1368-485X
  34. ^ Grady, Mary (25 April 2009). ""Flying Motorcycle" Prototype Coming Soon, Company Says". AVweb. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  35. ^ "Switchblade". Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  36. ^ Stevenson, Beth (14 November 2014), "'Transformer' UAV touted to parcel delivery market", Flightglobal, Reed Business Information, retrieved 16 November 2014
  37. ^ Hambling, David. "Watch the SkyCruiser Flying Car Transform From Helicopter to Plane in Mid-Air" Popular Mechanics, 31 October 2014. Accessed: 16 November 2014.
  38. ^ Szondy, David. "Krossblade's SkyCruiser merges airplane, quadcopter and car" GizMag, 25 October 2014. Accessed: 16 November 2014.
  39. ^ Durden, Rick (16 November 2014). "VTOL Hybrids for General Aviation?". Avweb. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  40. ^ Carplane, A Roadable Aircraft Designed For Drivability Gallery Archive
  41. ^ Carplane Emerges in Europe
  42. ^ "iCar 101 roadable aircraft". Retrieved 2014-12-01
  43. ^ The Globe and Mail: A wingless flying car that drives like a motorcycle, November 2014
  44. ^ "IFCA Announces Flying Cars About To Hit World Market". Various. 2 April 2012. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  45. ^ "European Flying Car Association". EFCA. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  46. ^ "EFCA launches roadable aircraft competition in Europe". EFCA. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  47. ^ Seattle Times: Tired of the commute? All you need is $3.5 million, September 2006

Further reading

External links