Ex-Russian Pilot Transforms his ZAZ Tavria into a Flying Car

flying car  Ex-Russian Pilot Transforms his ZAZ Tavria into a Flying Car(Image: www.nkj.ru, reproduced with permission)

Discovery recently reported that 72-year-old retired Russian pilot Valery Bulgakov had converted his 1987 Ukrainian-built ZAZ Tavria into a flying car. These images show the impressive result of his eccentric labours on display in July at the Autoexotics motor show in Moscow.

(Image: www.nkj.ru, reproduced with permission)

Bulgakov replaced the doors and bonnet (hood) with lighter materials and added a double set of wings, effectively transforming the Tavria into a biplane. The flying car, which was designed purely to train would-be pilots, has even been patented.

flying car 2  Ex-Russian Pilot Transforms his ZAZ Tavria into a Flying Car(Image: www.nkj.ru, reproduced with permission)

With a takeoff speed of 60 miles per hour (which takes a standard Tavria around 20 seconds to reach), sustained flight range of 600 feet and maximum altitude of ten feet, this is hardly a high performance machine. Whether it will be approved for flight by Russian authorities, however, remains to be seen.

If you enjoyed this article, don’t miss our Brief Historical Introduction to Flying Cars (aka roadable aircraft).

A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car

taylor aerocar  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: Ciar, cc-sa-3.0)

If you thought flying cars were the domain of sci fi movies or the reality-stretching James Bond films – you’d be surprised. The concept has been around since the early days of motoring, when intrepid aviators and auto pioneers envisioned a time when cars ruled the sky as they did the road. The fact that in 2011 we don’t have a mass produced flying car is testament to the ill-fated efforts of some of those early innovators – but there is hope, thanks to twenty first century advances.

Early History

curtiss autoplane  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, via Ars Electronica, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

The first flying car – or roadable aircraft – came in 1917 via Wright Brothers rival Glenn Curtiss who – having been beaten into the air – designed the three-wing Curtiss Autoplane. The vehicle could only hop, but spawned an engineering race that, despite modern successes, has yet to come of age.

ford flivver  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: FlugKerl2, cc-sa-3.0)

In 1926, Henry Ford unveiled the Sky Flivver, which wasn’t really a flying car but captured the public imagination due to a clever campaign billing it “the Model T of the Air”. Ford hoped the Flivver would become the first mass produced and affordable plane that could be maintained just like a car. The idea was abandoned when it crashed during a distance-record attempt, killing the pilot.

waterman aerobile arrowbile1  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, public domain; inset: Mark Pellegrini, cc-sa-3.0)

Next came an effort by Waldo Waterman, designer of the first tailless monoplane (precursor to the flying wing) and modern tricycle landing gear. Waterman’s 1937 creation, the Arrowbile (or Aerobile – a development of his earlier design the Whatsit), was the first flying car to actually fly. With a wingspan of 38 feet, the Arrowbile could reach 112 mph in flight and 56 mph on the road.

Later Efforts

AVE Mizar  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: YouTube screenshot, Galpin Motors, California, and Bert Boeckmann)

Fresh from the success of World War Two, anything seemed possible in 1950s America. One of those things was the flying car, which came in increasingly modern designs and found ever more disasterous ways of crashing. One notable example, the AVE Mizar, mated the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster with a Ford Pinto. It disintegrated during testing, killing the pilot and designer Henry Smolinski.

taylor aerocar 2  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: Lotzman Katzman, cc-3.0)

Despite the setbacks and lack of commercial success, not all flying cars were a disaster. The Convair Model 118 flew successfully, while one 1949 Taylor Aerocar is still flying today. Ford tried again in the 1950s, concluding that flying cars could be made and manufactured economically. Markets identified were the military, emergency services and luxury travel – now served, at far greater cost according to Ford, by light helicopters.

(Image: creative location, cc-sa-3.0)

Determined to make his vision a reality, Ford sounded out the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Their main concerns were lack of adequate air traffic control to handle hundreds of airborne vehicles, and problems such as intoxicated pilots and flying without a license. The international community would also have to agree on universal standards, the translation of air miles to nautical miles, and so on.

terrafuga transition  A Brief Historical Introduction to the Flying Car(Image: Observe the Banana, cc-nc-3.0)

Above all, the FAA feared the impact of flying cars on urban areas, as shoddily built machines and drunk pilots crashed into houses and shops, wrecking property and killing pedestrians.

The Twenty First Century Flying Car

Fortunately for the FAA, engineers never got that far, but modern flying car concepts like the Terrafugia Transition (above) are showing remarkable promise – stay tuned for Part Two.

Is Restoration on the Horizon for Heathrow’s Neglected Concorde?

concorde heathrow  Is Restoration on the Horizon for Heathrow’s Neglected Concorde?(Image: Google Earth)

I’ve long thought it strange – and somewhat ironic – that Heathrow authorities couldn’t get their acts together in securing the future of Concorde G-BOAB, coded Alpha Bravo. While other groups have worked hard to restore their most prized exhibits, Alpha Bravo languishes behind the BA hangars at Heathrow, while BAA Ltd., the Spanish-owned operator of six British airports including Heathrow, reportedly shows little interest.

concorde heathrow 2  Is Restoration on the Horizon for Heathrow’s Neglected Concorde?(Image: Arpingstone, public domain)

Previous longterm proposals have included cutting the Concorde’s wings off and shipping her to Dubai. More recently, Club Concorde revealed plans to display Alpha Bravo on the River Thames – similar to the New York example.  Heritage Concorde, meanwhile, is campaigning for the preservation of Alpha Bravo at Heathrow – the aircraft’s true home.

concorde heathrow 3  Is Restoration on the Horizon for Heathrow’s Neglected Concorde?(Image: Arpingstone, public domain)

Heritage Concorde details the ongoing plight of Alpha Bravo. The neglected airliner is reportedly a bare shell inside, with cockpit instruments donated to Brooklands Museum, seats auctioned off upon retirement and other fittings torn out. There have even been rumours of a rat infestation, not to mention inevitable external deterioration brought on by several years standing in the open air.

concorde heathrow 4  Is Restoration on the Horizon for Heathrow’s Neglected Concorde?(Image: Luigi Rosa, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

While Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport proudly displays its Concorde on a plinth, Heathrow authorities seem uncommitted to the longterm future of their flagship aircraft (British Airways gifted Alpha Bravo to BAA in 2004). While display on the Thames is preferable to rotting in a corner of Heathrow, it’s a pity that the Concorde’s home of over 30 years – and Britain’s premier airport – can’t support the preservation of its greatest ambassador.

What Became of the EasyJet EcoJet?

(Image: EasyJet)

In June 2007 EasyJet unveiled a conceptual design for an environmentally friendly short haul airliner called the EcoJet, set to make its maiden flight in 2015.  The passenger aircraft was designed to compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family of jets.  But nothing more was heard of the project after its launch, suggesting the EcoJet might have been a way of pressuring the industry giants into developing cleaner means of air travel.

(Image: NASA, public domain)

Adopting carbon fibre composite materials, EcoJet’s design made use of propfan engines (like the NASA development above) and was expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 75% and noise by 25%.  It will be interesting to see if this aircraft concept re-emerges in the future.  Does anyone have any information?