In various posts from time to time I've written about non-traditional vehicles which can travel on land or in the air. As an aviation enthusiast for the past fourteen years, I've come across a variety of designs ~ some of them sleek, others boxy. As with any crossover concept, you end up sacrificing performance in one mode or the other, for the sake of versatility.
The most recent issue of AOPA Pilot, the flagship publication of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, included a brief article on the PAL-V ONE, which converts from something resembling a three-wheeled, enclosed motorcycle on the ground, to a gyrocopter in flight. Images of both modes appear above (click to enlarge). Performance is impressive ~
- powerplant ~ 230 horsepower engine
- on land ~ max speed 112 mph, 28 mpg, range 750 miles
- in the air ~ max speed 112 mph, cruise speed 68 mph, range 220-315 miles
- price $250,000
As a land vehicle, the aerodynamic PAL-V ONE is as agile as a motorcycle, thanks to a control system which automatically adjusts the tilt angle of the vehicle to its speed and acceleration. As an aircraft, the vehicle needs very little room for takeoff and landing, and is quieter than a helicopter. I've long been fascinated with gyrocopters, since controlling them is more intuitive and less complex than piloting a helicopter ~ though I'd love to learn choppers anyway.
The AOPA article compares the PAL-V ONE to the crossover vehicle furthest along in development and availability, the Terrafugia Transition, which more closely resembles an automobile on the ground (if you can ignore its pterosaur-like folded wings), since it has four wheels and a wider body. In the air it looks like a somewhat blocky fixed-wing aircraft. Images of both modes appear below (click to enlarge). For comparison ~
- powerplant ~ 100 horsepower Rotax engine
- on land ~ max speed 115 mph, 35 mpg, range 490 miles
- in the air ~ max speed 115 mph, cruise speed 105 mph, range 490 miles.
- price $279,000
The PAL-V ONE looks sportier, the Terrafugia looks more suburban. Yet both metamorphose from ground vehicle to aircraft smoothly at the push of a button. Both carry two people. And both eliminate the need to tie down or hangar a conventional fixed-wing or rotor aircraft at the airport. You simply land, exit the airport and drive home. And bask in the stares of those you drive (or fly) past along the way.