A flying car dream came temporarily crashing down to Earth for one inventor and his company during a test flight accident last Friday. The good news is that Stefan Klein, pilot and inventor of the Aeromobil flying car prototype, managed to survive the crash unscathed after he activated an emergency parachute system.
The accident occurred during a test flight of the Aeromobil 3.0, a prototype flying car that resembles the front of a car chassis with collapsible wings and a light aircraft’s tail. Aeromobil did not share details about exactly what happened during the flight held near Nitra Janíkovce airport in Slovakia on 8 May. But eyewitness accounts in a Slovakian news source cited by Gizmodo mentioned the vehicle going into a tailspin. That loss of control prompted Klein, the pilot, to activate the plane’s “advanced ballistic parachute system” at an altitude of about 300 meters.
The Aeromobil 3.0’s parachute deployed, but it was still damaged in the crash.Photo: MH/SME.sk
“The system has proved itself fully functional and landed the entire vehicle without any injury to the pilot,” according to an Aeromobil statement. “The detailed data and overall experience from this test flight will be thoroughly analyzed and the results will be used in the ongoing R&D and improvements of the prototype.”
Photos taken at the scene show visible damage to the carbon-coated steel framework. The Aeromobil website describes the Aeromobil 3.0 as being capable of achieving a top flying speed of 200 kilometers per hour and a top road speed of 160 kilometers per hour.
Aeromobil is not alone in chasing the flying car dream. Massachusetts-based Terrafugia has been leading the pack in the United States with its Transition prototype vehicle. Both the Transition and Aeromobil 3.0 share a similar design as far as both being “roadable” aircraft that require runways for takeoff and landing. That may work well for civilian pilots who don’t want to bother switching between car and airplane at the airport, but it’s still a far cry from the futuristic dream of flying cars for the average commuter’s life.
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.