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Flying car - no more traffic jams

2014-01-20 11:14

FLYING CAR: Stefan Klein and his Aeromobil - this piece of engineering could become the car of the future. Image: AFP

  Video

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TATANIA JANCARIKOVA

BRATIASLAVA, Slovakia - Hollywood has made the best portrayals of what a flying car could look like and how it would work. The Aeromobil best represents what could be expected. 

Slovak designer and engineer Stefan Klein, Inspired by the dreamy books about flying by French authors Jules Verne and Antoine de Saint Exupery,  has been honing his flying machine since the early 1990's.

'FLYING IN TRAFFIC'

Klein said: "I got the idea to start working on a vehicle of the future at university but, honestly, who hasn't dreamed of flying while stuck in traffic? Flying's in my blood - my grandfather and my father flew ultra-light aircraft and I got my pilot's licence before I was old enough to drive a car."

Klien designs cars for BMW, Volkswagen and Audi and now teaches at the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts and Design. His elegant blue-and-white vehicle for two though six metres long fits neatly in a parking space or garage and tanks up at any filling station. But once it reaches an airport it can unfold its wings within seconds to become a plane.

Aviation magazine Flying dubbed it "the world's prettiest and best-designed airborne automobile" and the Aeromobil also has the distinction of originating in Slovakia, said to be the world's largest per-capita car producer.
 
LAUNCHING SOON

The president of the Slovak Ultra-Light Aviation Federation, Milan Ciba, said: "So far there have been about 20 attempts to manufacture a flying car around the globe. Among them the Aeromobil appears very viable." Other models include the US-based Terrafugia's "Transition" flying car expected to be launched on the market within a year, while the helicopter-type Dutch PAL-V gyrocopter could go on sale in this year.

Klein's dream took to the skies in September 2013 when he piloted the Aeromobil during its first test flight. Once airborne it can reach 200km/h  and travel as far as 700km consuming 15 litres of petrol per hour. Jan Lesinsky from the Slovak University of Technology said: "A combination of a car and a plane will always lose against the competition when we start comparing energy consumption." But would-be users could glide over long lines and security checks at airports, saving time on medium-distance journeys.

Klein and his team are working on the next generation of the Aeromobil that will go into production in a few months and they hope, receive Slovak ultra-light aircraft certification. Klein said: "I don't expect Aeromobil to go into mass production, it will always be an alternative means of transport. It can, however, be very interesting for countries with vast areas lacking infrastructure, such as Russia, China or Australia.


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