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Old 15th April 2021, 11:23   #1
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Default A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car

In 1940 Henry Ford famously said: "Mark my word: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come




Well, it turns our ol’ Henry was bang on the money! You can order a real, completely road and air legal and certified flying car today!!

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv0984.jpg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv0471.jpg

The company in question PAL-V (Personal and Air Land Vehicle) happens to be located in Raamsdonkveer, the Netherlands. Less than 20 km south from where we live these days.

I noticed some PR on Facebook. I contacted them, told them I had a driver license and a pilot license. "Come on over and let's talk" they replied!

So I got into my Jaguar and rocked up to the PAL-V Headquarter and factory in Raamsdonkveer. The centre of the universe when it comes to flying cars!! Really, because as you will see, PAL-V is just about the only serious player in the flying car market today.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3982.jpeg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3981.jpeg

I met up with their CCO Marco van den Bosch.

I must admit, the PAL-V story is quite amazing. It is testimony to an incredible level of perseverance of those involved in making this flying car a reality. Yes, you can actually order one and yes the first ones will be delivered to customers by the end of this year. More about this later.

We wil look into the history of the flying car, the inherit challenges of flying cars and how those can be overcome and then take a closer look at the PAL-V and the company.

Heads up: This is a long thread, so settle in and enjoy the ride/flight!

But before we take off:

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3993.jpg



HISTORY OF THE FLYING CAR



A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.31.41-am.png

First we need to look at a definition of the flying car.

A flying car is a type of personal air vehicle or roadable aircraft that provides door-to-door transportation by both ground and air.

What sets it apart is the fact it has the capability to transport you door to door, by providing both ground and air transport. This is very different from a plane or a helicopter, which is platform to platform transportation. Usually when taking a plane or a helicopter you need to rely on other means of transport getting to and from the platform.

The term "flying car" is also sometimes used to include hovercars. Which again is something a bit different.

Since the early 1900s there have been at least a dozen different companies attempting to bring a true flying car to the market. I picked up a bit on history from various sources on the Internet, notably from the weburbanist

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.33.21-am.png

The very first working flying car prototype was built in 1917 by Glenn Curtiss. The Autoplane was a small craft at only 27 feet long, and could only carry a payload of 710 pounds. But the car with wings was an exciting development at the time, and Curtiss believed that it would soon become the personal transportation of everyone who could afford it. Sadly, the Autoplane never achieved sustained flight. It made a few hops, but it was destined to go down in history as the flying car that never really flew.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.33.35-am.png

In 1933, the U.S. Air Commerce Bureau put a call out to aircraft designers to create an airplane design that would cost less than $700. The Flivver competition, as it was called, produced a few flying car designs. Among them was the Aerobile from Waldo Waterman. The curious vehicle looked and performed more like a car than its predecessor, with a Studebaker engine under the hood and a steering wheel in the cockpit. Unfortunately, being introduced in the middle of the Great Depression proved an insurmountable obstacle for the Aerobile; even though it was able to fly, it never caught on. Waldo Waterman continued to work on and improve the design, but it never gained flight certification or went into mass production

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.41.24-am.png

The next contender in the flying cars race was the Airphibian, designed by American inventor Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. in 1945. Fulton, a relative of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton, the Airphibian was the first flying car to get a conditional flight certification from the Civil Aviation Authority in 1950. It featured removable wings and tail, which Fulton boasted could be removed by just one person. The design, however, ran into the same troubles as most other flying cars: the heavy materials and technical requirements meant that it was clumsy in the air and sluggish on the ground. Although the design was technically successful, the company itself fell victim to financial woes and the Airphibian never went into production.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.33.53-am.png

If you think the other flying cars all look a little too much like airplanes, join the club. Industrial Designer Henry Dreyfuss decided to design an actual flying car in 1947, and the Convaircar was the result. It was, quite literally, a car that could fly. The car itself sported a lightweight fiberglass body and could seat four. The wings and engine/propeller snapped onto the top of the car, and when not in use were towed behind the car. The idea was well-received until the vehicle crashed during a test flight, killing the pilot/driver and scaring potential investors (and prospective customers) off.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.37.39-am.png

Terrafugia is a newcomer to the world of flying cars, but their completed proof of concept vehicle looks immensely promising. Founded in 2006 by MIT engineers and MBAs, the company aims to deliver its first products to consumers in 2011. Their design, dubbed Transition, is decidedly modern, but vaguely reminiscent of the Aerocar. The wings are folded and unfolded from inside the cockpit, two people can fit inside, and when on the ground the vehicle gets about 30 miles to the gallon. Only time will tell if the Transition ever takes off, so to speak, but so far it looks promising.

There have been quite a few more than just these. All of these designs had a few things in common, other than not becoming a succes at all! In most cases the design team started with what was basically a car and bolted on the bits needed to fly. E.g. wings, propellor, tail etc. Although an understandable approach, history has taught us that when mixing two completely different designs, it is usually best to start from a blanc sheet of paper and design the total package ground up. If you don’t you will face many challenges and need to comprimise a lot.

Think for instance amphibious cars. The real successful ones are always the one that were designed ground up, rather than to take car and make it float, or a boat and make it drive. A point well illustrated by the infamous Topgear lads.

A flying car comes with a number of inherit challenges. Obviously, it must provide safe, reliable, comfortable and environmental friendly operation on public roads as well as in the air. It must be relatively simple to operate, it must be affordable, both to purchase as well as its running cost.

A practical flying car must be capable of safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly operation both on public roads and in the air. For widespread adoption it must also be able to fly without a qualified pilot at the controls and come at affordable purchase and running costs.

Many types of aircraft technologies and form factors have been tried. The simplest and earliest approach was to give a driveable car added, bolt-on fixed flying surfaces and propeller. However, such a design must either tow its removable parts on a separate trailer behind it or return to its last landing point before taking off again. Other conventional takeoff fixed-wing designs include folding wings, which the car carries with it when driven on the road.

Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) designs include rotorcraft with folding blades, as well as ducted-fan and tiltrotor vehicles.[31] Most design concepts have inherent problems. Ducted-fan aircraft such as the Moller Skycar tend to easily lose stability and have been unable to travel at greater than 30–40 knots.[32] Tiltrotors, such as the V-22 Osprey convertiplane, are generally noisy. To date, no vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle has ever demonstrated adequate road capabilities.

Another alternative is the autogyro. It has an unpowered lifting rotor, relying on its forward airspeed to generate lift. For road use it requires a folding rotor and propellor blades.

Let’s take a look at how PAL-V tackled all these different challenges:

CHALLENGES



As with everything in life, it does start with a good vision about what it is you want to achieve. What is the problem/challenge that needs solving. Obviously, flying cars have been around for some time.

PAL-V started by creating a vision about how this flying car was to be used. Not just as an interesting oddity, but find a real use and subsequent market for it. From very early on they positioned themselves as providing a solution for door to door transport. Obviously, with the challenges we see all over the world in terms of congested roads, public transport bursting at it seams, this is an existing problem/challenge that is on the increase. As some of you know I am a very frequent flyer (I hold titanium status with three different carriers) so I am very familiar with this very problem.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.55.49-am.png

It was around 1999 when PAL-V came up with the vision of this door to door transport Flying Car.

The team looked at various design and different technologies. They concluded that the gyroplane principle was most suitable for creating a flying car. The gyroplane principle convinced them for a number of good reasons. Firstly, flying gyroplanes is very safe and easy to learn. Furthermore, storing the sleek rotor system safely on top of the vehicle is more compact than storing bulky wings.

However, one of the biggest challenges inherent in a flying car: Simply put; cars have four wheels and low centre of gravity. Planes tend to have three wheels and high centre of gravity!

An airplane normally has three wheels to make crosswind landings safer and mechanically easier.
It has a high center of gravity to make it stable in the air by ensuring the propeller to push through the center of gravity.

The latter is something you do not want while driving because you will tip over when cornering. This is a fundamental problem encountered for over 100 years by flying car designers.

In 2005 a breakthrough in technology provided a solution for the high center of gravity. A Dutch company called Carver successfully implemented a tilting system in a three wheel vehicle: the Carver One. The tilting system could be used to counter the high center of gravity of an aircraft and make a folded aircraft safe to drive on the road. The first sketches of a roadable gyroplane or flying car were made.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-8.10.53-am.png

So a first prototype was build on the chassis structure of a Carver 1:

Not necesarrily the prettiest of designs at this point in time. But so early on in the development it is all about functionality.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-8.12.01-am.png

This initial design was extensively tested and developed further to allow for the high centre of gravity due to the gyrocopter additions.

All of this took place around 2008. Even today the prototype can still be seen in the PAL-V factory in Raamsdonkveer. It was actually the first thing I saw when I went inside. Of course, I had this image in my mind as shown of this very fancy orange looking driving/flying machine. The prototype is a lot less sexy looking. But being an engineer at heart, I spend a long time pouring over this machine.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3973.jpeg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3977.jpeg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3979.jpeg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3980.jpeg

So, the use of the carver technology solved one of the big challenges for the PAL-V team. Many earlier flying cars, were basically some sort of car-platform with wings bolted onto it. The PAL-V team decided to implement gyrocopter technology, rather than fixed wings.

An autogyro (from Greek αὐτός and γύρος, "self-turning"), also known as a gyroplane or gyrocopter, is a type of rotorcraft that uses an unpowered rotor in free autorotation to develop lift. Forward thrust is provided independently, by an engine-driven propeller. While similar to a helicopter rotor in appearance, the autogyro's rotor must have air flowing across the rotor disc to generate rotation, and the air flows upwards through the rotor disc rather than down.

So it might look like a helicopter, but it is very very different. Its rotor is unpowered. Gyrocopter are considered to be very safe and very simple to operate and maintain. Helicopters are hugely complex and tricky to fly at best.

Of course, Gyrocopter are the coolest, ever since James Bond took on the baddies in “little Nellie”. There must be a billion images of Little Nellie out there on the Internet. But I can do better than that, as I own my little “little Nellie”.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3992.jpg

Just a word of caution; the PAL-V does not come with the rocket launchers. I looked for it on the option list, but unfortunatley it is not to be!

Gyrocopter come with some more interesting characteristics. They produce relatively low noise (they don’t have the typical helicopter chop-chop-chop noise). Apart from easy to fly, they are also can not stall. Stalling is a condition at which the wing stops producing lift due its high angle of attack. The rotor of a gyroplane is your wing, and it generates lift and control because it is autorotating. This rotation is generally independent of airspeed and angle of attack, so a gyroplane cannot stall. (At least that is the theory, I am not a hundred percent convinced, but it is probably fair to say, that gyrocopter have outstanding stall capabilities.

Also, gyrocopter are less prone to suffer from turbulence. You have essentially a not very broad rotor blade instead of a very broad wing. It’s simply less susceptible to turbulence. An important factor, especially during VFR (visual Flight Rules) as this takes place at relative low altitudes. Contrary to a helicopter a gyrocopter does not need a tail rotor. Its rotor is free spinning and does not create a momentum on the fuselage. So again, a very simple design.

Before we continue and dive in deeper, lets look at some photographs of this amazing machine. These images were taken during the various road test. Those of you familiar with Rotterdam, will recognise some of the scenery!

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-flying-car-palv-liberty-10.jpg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-flying-car-palv-liberty-5.jpg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-flying-car-palv-liberty-2.jpg

And here a video of it driving on the road!


Last edited by Jeroen : 16th April 2021 at 00:21.
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Old 15th April 2021, 21:50   #2
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Default re: A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car

CHALLENGES CONTINUE



So the team managed to choose the main technological approach to a flying car; a gyrocopter, based on a three wheel carver chassis.

However, when you want to fly something, anything, you need to start thinking about certification. There are different kind of certifications for these kind of flying machines. Actually, in the past some of the various models shown earlier tended to be build under what is commonly known as “experimental class”. From a certification point of view it is relative easy, but it does come with quite a number of restriction on how it can be used. As a rule the actual builder is allowed to fly it, but nobody else. Also, it comes with quite severe restriction on use, in terms of hours per day, air space and so on. It is a class that is often used for the various kit plane and kit helicopters on the market.

In 2009, PAL-V agreed with EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) to use the Certification Specifications for Small Rotorcraft, CS-27, as a starting point for the development of the Certification Basis. PAL-V worked together with EASA to amend the complete list of over 1,500 criteria to make it applicable for the PAL-V. The list was published last year for review by industry experts and the final version was published some time ago.

Based on PAL-V’s 10 years of test results, EASA specialist teams finalized the requirements for the PAL-V Liberty. After industry consultation, shows the confidence of the European authorities and the maturity of the design and the company. The final phase is compliance demonstration before CarFlying becomes reality for PAL-V’s customers. In effect this entails a logging of some 100 hours flight time to demonstrate compliance.

As we speak this is underway and expected to be completed later this year.

The PAL-V was also certified as a proper road car from very early on.

The EASA certification is a very detailled, slow and tedious process that has to be followed to the letter. It takes on average at least 10 years. There is simply no way to do this any quicker. It is not a matter of money or resources, it is a matter of just working your way through the very detailled certification process. Which requires tonnes of paper, demonstrations and continuous dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv0764.jpg

TECHNICAL DETAILS



Let’s have a look at some of the technical aspect and the main specifications:

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-5.59.05-pm.png

This being an aircraft we need to mix typical car and aviation jargon. In drive mode it will do 160 km/h. But in all honesty it is unlikely that will be very comfortable. Besides, these days, there are very few countries where such a speed would be legal. In Europe most motorway speeds, depending on time of day will be between 100-130 km/h. It’s quite nippy too, 0-100 takes just under 9 seconds. With a fuel efficiency of about 13l per kilometer and a 100 liter tank, the drive range is over 1300 km.

It comes with two Rotax Engines. The design team choose for Rotax as this is one of the most reputable engines in the world. Many General Avation planes (e.g. single engine propellor drive planes) have Rotax engine. It is also an advantage from a certification point of view to start with components that have proven their worth and reliability already and are certified by themselves.

The PAL-V has two 100 HP Rotax engines. Earlier on in the design phase it became clear they would require about 200 HP. At the time, no such engines were available, so they decided to go with two engines. It is also an added redundancy of course. One of the requirements was to be able to make use of regular petrol station, which means the engine need to run on E10 Euro 95/98. Normal for a car engine these days, not so for a aviation engine!

Have a look at the drive mode dimensions; One of the design requirements was to fit into a normal garage! And it does, in drive mode of course.

In flight mode it will happily cruise at 140 - 160 km/h maxing out at 180 km/h. Minimum speed in horizontal flight is 50 km/h. You go any slower and your PAL-V will start to descent.

Take off roll at Maximum Take off weight and at sea level is only 180m. But the take off distance is 330m. The difference is you need a certain distance to climb to a certain altitude. This being a gyrocopter there are two ways to conduct a take off. You can just firewall the throttle and start rolling, this will allow the main rotor to start spinning and as you pick up forward speed the RPM of the rotor will continue to accelerate to the point where it provides sufficient lift.

Or you can spin up the rotor while still stationary. The PAL-V has small, but powerful rotor starter motor. It will spin up the rotor to about 200RPM. With the rotor spinning you will reduce the take off distance. I believe the afore mentioned distances are based on pre-take off spin up of the rotor.

I happen to take a shot of this very starter motor on the prototype:

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-img_3978.jpeg


It will accodate two, the driver/pilot and a passenger. It does have a (very) small storage compartment. But you won’t be able to take your golf clubs, more like a small overnight bag might just do.

When it comes to aviation an important aspect of any aircraft is the useful load. On the PAL-V that is 246kg. The total weight of the driver/passenger/luggage and fuel needs to stay below 246kg. When in flight mode the total weight does effect your range. But also the weight of pilot/passenger and their luggage could affect the range. Because the total does need to stay within the 246kg. So with two able bodies of say 90-95kg and two small weekend bags, you might not be able to take a full load of fuel anymore.

In all honesty, this is not unusual on any small aircraft. On the sort of planes I fly it is always a consideration and it is part of the flight planning process to figure out your weight, how much fuel you can take and how that might impact your flight plan (e.g. more stop overs)

As you will see from the above, the Max Range is give for two different set ups and varies between 400-500km. Be aware, range for a plane or gyrocopter is not the same a geographical distance. You need to factor in wind. That can help or hurt!

Look at this dashboard/ cockpit. Pretty impressive! Whereas lots of attention and resources have been spend on the technical design and certification, they have also given due attention to how this machine looks, how it feels, the colours, materials etc. It is all pretty high end, high quality finish.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv_liberty_flying_car_fullsize_srgb_015.jpg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv1081.jpg

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv_liberty_flying_car_fullsize_srgb_016.jpg


It has full leather seats. The Primary Flight Display is an Aspen Avionics Evolution E1000. A full glass cockpit type of display. I am quite familiar, having flown with it in the past as well. Again, PAL-V is using existing components from existing well established and certified suppliers that have proven themselves in the past in the aviation industry.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-6.37.57-pm.png

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv_liberty_flying_car_fullsize_srgb_011.jpg

The transformation from drive to flight mode takes about 3-5 minutes and is done semi-automatic. Most of the big components that need extending/folding do so by means of pneumatic actuation.

How to drive a PAL-V is easy to understand, especially for our esteemed TeamBHP members. How to fly it, is probably for most of us a bit of an unknown. Here a good introduction video on how the PAL-V is flown. Note, it is all done with the simulator (prototype). But you will get a good sense of some of the basics of the flying operations



BUSINESS AND COMMERCIAL MODEL



Although the initial idea and preliminary work started from 1999 the company PAL-V was founded as early as 2008. It does take a very long time from a conceptual idea to a fully certified, commercially available product. As I mentioned before, the long pole in the tent is the certification. Ten years! It is not just getting the design certified and tested. This is the aviation industry and that means that everything and everybody must adhere to very specific rules and regulation. The whole of the supply chain and the fabrication and assembly process itself is part of the certification regime!

PAL-V has some 140 financial backers. When you google flying car you will find a number of companies. Truth is PAL-V is far ahead of the completion. The two most prominent ones, are not even anywhere near. Apparently, the Terraffugia adventure has closed shop and the one other serious party Aeromobil, has not even started it’s certification application. So at least ten years behind!

And the immediate future looks bright in terms of business. Marco could not divulge to much detail. But he did mention that for the Netherlands alone he has fifty (50!) orders already. I must say I was very impressed with the PAL-V PR machinery. This is by all accounts a small start up company. To date, less than a hundred employees. But the have managed to generate a huge interest and have a big impact on the market. You will see PAL-V mentioned in news forums, car forums and aviation forums. They have been present on many leading industry events. As with everything they need to give due attention to the car as well as the aviation community.

PAL-V visited India and met with PM Modi. I understand some sort of MOU was signed. A bit of searching on YouTube and look what came up:



Apart from private buyers there is considerable interest from other parties as well. Think taxi services, Police and Coast guard surveillance, The flying doctors, military. The PAL-V being a gyrocopter does offer some intrinsic advantages over helicopters. The door to door transport we mentioned earlier obviously. But for instance it does much better in sandy environments as there is no down wash, which can be a huge problem for helicopters. Endurance is better than most helicopters.

From early on they offered a so called OTP model, an Option To Purchase. This ensures a prospective buyer a production slot and doesn’t require an immediate up front payment. Apart from the fifty concrete orders in the Netherlands interest around the world has been huge. Various (TV) celebrities are knocking on the PAL-V (Hangar) doors. Including some well known Car enthusiast. And if fact, it is likely that a fair number of the first couple of hundred units is going to be bought by collectors. Pricing starts from Euro 300.000 to about Euro 500.000. To put that in an European context; A fully loaded Porsche Panamera will set you back some Euro 225.000. A Rolls Royce Phantom will cost you upwards of Euro 550.000.

The factory in Raamsdonkveer is set up to produce the first batch of 90 units. About 45 of these will be for the European market, 25 for the USA and 20 for other markets , notably middle east. Out of that European batch of 25, 15 will remain in the BeNeLux.

PAL-V does more than just design and produce a flying car. It is very active in promoting its vision around the door to door transport as one of the solution to the ever increasing congestion. But it does mean that there needs to be sufficient infrastructure in relevant place to land your flying car. Remarkably all over Europe there are lots of airfields, big and small. The PAL-V can be operated from a simple grass strip. In countries such as the UK as long as you have permission from the owner that is not a problem. However, the Netherlands is actually a little bit more particular. So PAL-V is also arranging various grass strip around the Netherlands to be implemented. The first one will be less than 7 kilometers north from where we live. Near a main junction on the Motorway A27, the main North-South Motorway in the Netherlands. PAL-V has made an agreement the local council, who was happy to participate in such an innovative idea.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv_liberty_flying_car_fullsize_srgb_021.jpg

Interest from the UK, USA and the middle east is very high. Keep a look out for the Goodwoord festival of Speed; the PAL-V will put in an appearance this year!

As the PAL-V is certified and build under EASA rules, exporting it to other countries with a different road and air authorities is relatively easy. EASA is held in very high regards all around the world and most other nations more or less except their certifications without any major additional testing and or requirements.

We spoke about how the gyrocopter by its very nature is a very safe type of craft. It’s relatively simple, it’s easy to fly, it has dual engines. When both engines fail, due to the autorotation it will descend very slowly and you will still have full control. (Not like a autorotation in an helicopter engine out scenario which is more a controlled almost crash). Even so, when push comes to shove, it is all down to the pilot. In order to fly this flying car, you need to get a PPL (Private Pilot License).

Those of you who follow some of our aviation threads on TeamBHP will have seen my comments and thoughts on pilots and safety many times. Being a safe pilot is all about having the right attitude, the will and interest to continuously learn and improve yourself. To me, the notion that learning to fly is akin to learning to drive is beyond the ridiculous. I was very happy to hear the approach PAL-V takes to its pilots. Essentially they have integrated their own flight school into their overall operation. So the flight training is tailor made by PAL-V for PAL-V pilots.

When you deal with clients who can shell out Euro 300.000 for a flying car, the additional Euro 25.000 for the PPL training is not going to be an issue. The main challenges is finding the time. These tend to be very busy folks!. It took me 42 hours in the USA in 2009 to obtain my PPL. At the time the minimum number of hours was 40. I believe in Europe it is 45. That is actual flight time. The counter starts when you start the engine and stops when shut down the engine. Experience and history has shown that it is better to train a little often than a lot now and then. People attempting to get their PPL who can afford say 1-2 flight hours a month will be at it forever. The average pass rate is still around 60-65 hours.

The inconvenient truth is this: It is not whether a PAL-V will be involved in a fatal crash, but when the first PAL-V be involved in a fatal crash. Here are some sobering statistics from Europe.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.49.23-pm.png

And from the USA:

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-screenshot-20210415-7.50.41-pm.png

The vast majority of fatalities in General Aviation in these kind of airplanes is down to pilot error one way or the other.

I have mentioned it many times before on our other aviation threads. Being a safe pilot does not mean you need to be a real hot shot stick and rudder man/woman. It is all down to attitude. And that means you need to spend a lot of time on the ground preparing and learning. Other manufacturers have achieved outstanding results by their in-house pilot training programs. For instance, the fatality rate of pilots joining the Cirrus Owners club is less than half of Cirrus pilots who don’t join. The Cirrus Owner club is only about promotion of flight safety. The same is true for the FAA Wings program.

https://www.faasafety.gov/wings/pub/learn_more.aspx

Same thing, pilots who are active in the FAA Wings Program have less than half the accidents as other pilots. You don’t get to fly in these programs. You are being taught through seminars and workshops, on the ground, on what it takes to become a better and more safety conscious pilot.


So kudos to PAL-V to take this very serious, straight from the start:



SUMMARY



I think it looks absolutely fantastic!!! Can you imagine pulling into a petrol station and filling her up? Everybody will be swarming you and your flying car with the smart phones, taking selfies, asking you how fast it can go, how high it can go. Forget about your pathetic Ferrari or Bugatti. No matter where you will show up, you are going to be the talk of the town for years to come. My wife, who is not interested in cars. (She bought her Fiesta because it looks nice). She is not interested in planes (she never ever came with me, during all my flying years in the USA). But she was absolutely fascinated with the PAL-V. She read the brochure, looked up some video’s on their website.

A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car-palv0818-1.jpg

As I mentioned earlier, I am very impressed by the whole undertaking. The sheer perseverance, tenacity, commitment and focus of the whole PAL-V team and all those that have been supporting them over the years.

I was truly amazed to learn about their commercial succes to date. After all those years of hard work it must be a tremendous feeling to whole PAL-V team. And what an achievement it is!

I do like the vision of door to door transportation. With the emphasis on vision. I don’t think the current PAL-V will make any material impact yet. The volume of cars and people involved is just going to be too limited. But I do believe that we will see more and more combinations of different vehicles and technologies addressing this door to door thinking. That would include drones, obviously. And of course, in the not so distant future we will see electrical powered gyrocopter entering the road and air space.

I am a bit skeptical about this idea of rocking up in your PAL-V to a little grass strip, spending a few minutes transforming from drive to flight mode and then taking off for a 4 hours VFR flight from say Amsterdam to Paris.

Just as some sort of reference on what is involved in planning and conducting the simplest of flights:

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/comme...ne-planes.html (Pre-flight planning & checks for flying single-engine planes)

In the USA if you wanted to rent a plane, you would require at least 100 hours of flight time if your destination was over 100 nautical miles. Some would have a 200 hour flight time limit for flights over 200 nautical miles. In the USA the average annual flight time for GA pilots is around 70 hours per year. Most experts would consider that too little for good proficiency. How much flight time will these first PAL-V owners clock?

I do believe PAL-V is very much aware of the challenges of low hour pilots. Probably one of the reason they opted to take full control of the flight training.

All in all, I think it is a really interesting company, with a very innovative product. Admittedly, none of what they are doing is technological rocket science. But their challenge is really bringing different parties and components together in a way that has never been done before. At least not commercially successful.

This summer the PAL-V flight academy starts training up their prospective owners. They will be offering introduction simulator packages. Of course, yours truly has already signed up. I am really looking forward to it. I have never flown a gyrocopter. I have flown on helicopters a lot as passenger, often in the left hand seat next to the pilot. I have taken a few helicopter lessons in the early 80s when we lived in Brighton, UK. Nearby Shoreham had a big helicopter port and helicopter schools. All I remember it was incredibly difficult. Gyrocopter flying is supposed to be a lot easier, even easier than flying a fixed wing plane. And on those I have several hundred hours of experience.

I would like to thank PAL-V CCO Marco van den Bosch for all his information. We only had about 2,5 hours and I had many more questions.

Most of the photographs courtesy of PAL-V who was kind enough to send me their press kit.

PAL_V has an excellent website with literally tonnes of information. I have copied/pasted some for this little article. Have a look, some great information and more interesting videos: https://www.pal-v.com

Let me know what you think. Marco has agreed to help me answer any question.

Jeroen

Last edited by Jeroen : 16th April 2021 at 00:29.
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Old 16th April 2021, 08:37   #3
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Default Re: A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the International Scene. Thanks for sharing!

Will go to our homepage tomorrow
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Old 17th April 2021, 11:20   #4
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What an amazing concept! Thanks Jeroen for the wealth of information!

This company looks like it has it's priorities set with razor sharp focus. It must take immense level of commitment to navigate 10 years of government approvals.

Stupid question How feasible would this be in congested cities of Asia such as Mumbai or Shanghai? Can this take off from or land in a balcony in a high-rise apartment?
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Old 17th April 2021, 11:28   #5
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How feasible would this be in congested cities of Asia such as Mumbai or Shanghai? Can this take off from or land in a balcony in a high-rise apartment?
No, a gyrocopter does need a bit of runway to take off / land. Admittably, a very short runway, but still. It can not take off or land vertically. The spinning of the rotor is dependent on forward motion, no forward motion, the rotor slows down, which means less lift and the gyrocopter wonít fly.

As I mentioned earlier a gyrocopter does not require a tail rotor. That is again, because the rotor is free spinning, not driven as in a helicopter. It is one of its main advantages and why it is such a simple machine. The downside, if you want to call it like that, is it can not take off / land vertically. It will always need a short runway. As with a plane, a headwind will greatly reduce take off / landing distances.

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Old 17th April 2021, 12:24   #6
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As an airplane it has too many car parts to carry and as a car - the other way around.

I hope one day we get airplanes that can take off and land like a helicopter without those big blades and a mess on the ground, we can do away with most of the crawling on the ground.
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Old 17th April 2021, 13:51   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post

CHALLENGES CONTINUE



This being an aircraft we need to mix typical car and aviation jargon. In drive mode it will do 160 km/h. But in all honesty it is unlikely that will be very comfortable. Besides, these days, there are very few countries where such a speed would be legal. In Europe most motorway speeds, depending on time of day will be between 100-130 km/h. Itís quite nippy too, 0-100 takes just under 9 seconds. With a fuel efficiency of about 13l per kilometer and a 100 liter tank, the drive range is over 1300 km.

In all honesty, this is not unusual on any small aircraft. On the sort of planes I fly it is always a consideration and it is part of the flight planning process to figure out your weight, how much fuel you can take and how that might impact your flight plan (e.g. more stop overs)

Jeroen
We have been reading about flying cars for many years now, but for the first time we could see that flying car can become a reality very soon. Thanks for sharing such a detailed insight into this topic.

Will it be practical to fly this thing in India remains uncertain though because the people who can afford it will be businessmen based out of big cities and getting a runway near to office/home will be highly improbable.

I think fuel efficiency figures which you have mentioned is typo error, it will be 13 Km per Litre at ground.
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Old 17th April 2021, 15:21   #8
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As an airplane it has too many car parts to carry and as a car - the other way around
Not quite sure what you mean. It has all the parts it needs to fly. Gyrocopters are very simple, much fewer parts than a helicopter.

As a car it does need to carry the flying mode parts obviously.

I you want to fly and drive in one and the same vehicle there is going to be bits that are not used in both modes, obviously.

By the way, I forgot to mention. The new design does not rely on the Carver technology any more. They have found more subtle ways of dealing with the high centre of gravity. So again, makes for a slightly lighter and more simple design.

Quote:
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I hope one day we get airplanes that can take off and land like a helicopter without those big blades and a mess on the ground, we can do away with most of the crawling on the ground.
Vertical take off is always going to create a huge down wash. It can not be avoided, irrespective of the technology. Whether it is rotor, jets (e.g. Harrier), enclosed propellors. Lift (vertically) is a function of the mass of air you push awa. Air is very light so need to move a huge amount/volume no matter what.

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Originally Posted by RahuKetu View Post
Will it be practical to fly this thing in India remains uncertain though because the people who can afford it will be businessmen based out of big cities and getting a runway near to office/home will be highly improbable.
Actually, I would say India would potentially be a huge market. It is a country with many geographical obstacles, going around long distance can be a bit of time consuming. The whole idea of the flying car is that you drive to the nearest airstrip and then fly off. So it is not about having a runway next to your office.

And you donít need much of a runway. A 300 meter decent grass strip or dirt track will do. If you take Delhi for instance, there are plenty of places at the edge of town where it would be possible. I used to live in Vasant Vihar, between Vasant Vihar and my office in Gurgaon plenty of open space that could accommodate a grass strip. I would drive from home to it. transform my PAL-V to flying mode and fly to our factory in Jaipur. Same thing in Jaipur, plenty of open space around the city. I would land and drive the last 10-15 kilometer. It would certainly be a lot faster than going by train and or by car. Donít even start about going by plane!

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Originally Posted by RahuKetu View Post
I think fuel efficiency figures which you have mentioned is typo error, it will be 13 Km per Litre at ground.
thanks for spotting that; if you look carefully you will notice I wrote 13l per kilomter(l for litre).

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Old 17th April 2021, 18:12   #9
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Very informative post, thank you for taking the time to share it, one of the few people on this forum whose posts I thoroughly enjoy reading.

While the engineering aspect of this is excellent, it raises a lot more questions than it answers for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post

CHALLENGES CONTINUE



It comes with two Rotax Engines

Jeroen
I see the drive mode power listed as 100 hp while flight mode power is listed as 200hp.

I'm guessing one of the motors drives the wheels exclusively while on the ground and also feeds power to the other while in the air.

Using a Rotax to drive the wheel raises many questions for me, wondering if you had gleaned answers by chance to any of them during your conversation:
  1. Wouldn't TBO (Time between Overhauls) then be affected? So does the Hobbs run on the ground too when one of the engines is in ground mode to keep track of the hours?
  2. Rotaxes being aviation engines are fixed power/rpm engines, you run them at X rpm or Y % throttle.
    1. Since you can't really rev them up and down to accelerate or decelerate with the flow traffic, how are they getting variable power out of it for drive mode? Is there some sort of clutch that varies the power delivery? or are they really throttling the engine up and down to vary power delivery?
    2. Second, there is significant lag on throttle application compared to a car engine (would make the worst of the turbo-lag engines look positively sprightly), how are they overcoming that?
    3. Third, they aren't designed for off-design conditions, the wear on that would be massive at off-design, surely this reduces TBO, any idea if that is the case?
    4. Fourth, do you know which engine it is, the 912 or the 915? The spec says 100 bhp which would point to the 912, but the 912 has air cooled cylinders, I can't imagine it sitting in traffic. The 915 otoh is liquid cooled, but is a 130-140hp engine, are they derating the 915?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post

CHALLENGES CONTINUE



The flying doctors

Jeroen
Speaking of which: https://kittyhawk.aero/blog-post/europes-falck-in-partnership-with-silicon-valleys-kitty-hawk/

Who does PAL see as their target customer; the hobby-pilot, or are they going after the (Personal Air Vehicles) PAV and (Unmanned/Manned Urban Air Mobilty) UAM market?
In a world of Liliums, Kitty Hawks, Hyundai-Uber, Airbus' Vahana, and others, why are PAL still:
  1. Using fossil fuels and not electric? Electric might give you half the range of 100LL/RON95/98 now, but will catch up in the next 5-7 years.
  2. Building driving-flying cars, when the upcoming PAVs and UAMs can land on your rooftop/front yard/lawn to pick you up, and drop you off on the rooftop/front yard/lawn of your destination?
It feels a bit like launching a kersone powered abacus while the world is awaiting, expecting, and wants the iPhone 20.
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Old 17th April 2021, 19:20   #10
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Default Re: A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car

Very interesting write up. I was expecting a report on driving and flying experience, like a Team Bhp test drive. Very enlightening nevertheless.

May I make suggestion to the moderators some edits to improve the reading pleasure of the original posts by Jeroen:
inherit = inherent
accodate = accommodate
except = accept
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Old 17th April 2021, 21:13   #11
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Default Re: A visit to the PAL-V Factory | A close look at their Flying Car

Thanks for all your questions. I will forward them to PAL-V see if they can respond.

I will attempt to give a few general comments, based on the little I know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WD-42 View Post
I see the drive mode power listed as 100 hp while flight mode power is listed as 200hp.

I'm guessing one of the motors drives the wheels exclusively while on the ground and also feeds power to the other while in the air.
Correct


Quote:
Originally Posted by WD-42 View Post
Using a Rotax to drive the wheel raises many questions for me, wondering if you had gleaned answers by chance to any of them during your conversation:
  1. Wouldn't TBO (Time between Overhauls) then be affected? So does the Hobbs run on the ground too when one of the engines is in ground mode to keep track of the hours?
  2. Rotaxes being aviation engines are fixed power/rpm engines, you run them at X rpm or Y % throttle.
    1. Since you can't really rev them up and down to accelerate or decelerate with the flow traffic, how are they getting variable power out of it for drive mode? Is there some sort of clutch that varies the power delivery? or are they really throttling the engine up and down to vary power delivery?
    2. Second, there is significant lag on throttle application compared to a car engine (would make the worst of the turbo-lag engines look positively sprightly), how are they overcoming that?
    3. Third, they aren't designed for off-design conditions, the wear on that would be massive at off-design, surely this reduces TBO, any idea if that is the case?
    4. Fourth, do you know which engine it is, the 912 or the 915? The spec says 100 bhp which would point to the 912, but the 912 has air cooled cylinders, I can't imagine it sitting in traffic. The 915 otoh is liquid cooled, but is a 130-140hp engine, are they derating the 915?
PAL-V uses the Rotax 912iS. Currently TBO (Time between Overhaul) on the latest models is 2000 hours.

PAL-V states that first inspection is required after 25 hours and after that the normal service and inspection intervals are 100 hours. TBO is 600 hours. So yes, this engine in this application does come with a much lower TBO than the standard RotaxiS. (600 compared to the current 2000) Even so, and this is an interesting observation, PAL-V estimates that the 600 hours will be roughly 60.000 km distance travelled. Of course, the idea is that in this vehicle the majority of distance is flown, not driven.

The 912iS has a liquid cooled cylinder head and air cooled cylinder. What probably prompted the PAL-V team to consider this engine is that it will also run on automotive fuels (mogas). It can even operate on lead free fuel (as most petrols are these days of course.

I am not sure what they use as drive train for road use. At less than 9 seconds for 0-100 km/h it is not sluggish, but I don’t know how they do it.

I am not sure how much modification was done to this particular engine to make it suitable and be certified for both road and air use. It was probably a host of different requirements and considerations that led them to choose this engine.


Quote:
Originally Posted by WD-42 View Post
[/url]Who does PAL see as their target customer; the hobby-pilot, or are they going after the (Personal Air Vehicles) PAV and (Unmanned/Manned Urban Air Mobilty) UAM market?
In a world of Liliums, Kitty Hawks, Hyundai-Uber, Airbus' Vahana, and others, why are PAL still:
  1. Using fossil fuels and not electric? Electric might give you half the range of 100LL/RON95/98 now, but will catch up in the next 5-7 years.
  2. Building driving-flying cars, when the upcoming PAVs and UAMs can land on your rooftop/front yard/lawn to pick you up, and drop you off on the rooftop/front yard/lawn of your destination?
It feels a bit like launching a kersone powered abacus while the world is awaiting, expecting, and wants the iPhone 20.
They don’t appear to targeting hobby pilots at all. Personally, don’t think this appeals to hobby pilot much. I am a hobby pilot and in all honesty, just about any hobby plane is a much more efficient and more capable machine that the PAL-V. The PAL-V is a very different proposition and caters for people looking for efficient door to door transport. As a hobby pilot that is simply not that relevant.

For this sort of money (300-500KEuro), if you are into flying you can get an excellent second hand Cirrus SR20/22, a fully loaded Cessna 172 or even a brand new Diamond DA40..

All of these planes would outperform the PAL-V as a flying platform by miles and you can go IFR in them as well. And in my Cirrus I can fly above 20.000 feet and make use of the jetstream! But it is comparing chalk and cheese. We are talking two very different propositions. I still need my car to get to my Cirrus and I still need a car when I land my Cirrus.

The truth is, I don’t like having to rely on flying by VFR. That’s why I have an IFR rating. It provides me with much more flexibility and additional safety. Of course, it comes at a price, getting your IFR rating and there are far more stringent currency requirements too. I am not sure how much VFR flying time there is in Europe. One of the problems is that weather can be very volatile here. You might have a nice calm sunny morning and a few hours later you could have low overcast. I don’t see the PAL-V being certified for IFR yet. Unless there is a demand from the more professional quarters (e.g. law enforcement).

Of course, there are going to be some hobby pilots who really like it. I would also think that in for instance Australia / New Zealand it could be really interesting for people living in the outback.

So they are targeting business people, entrepreneurs, but admittedly initially as I mentioned there will be all sorts of other people interested (e.g. collectors). As I mentioned they do see their market way beyond what the PAL-V currently addresses. It is all very early days of course.

They have considered going electric, but the technology is simply not ready yet. You can not get the same performance today, based on electricity only. They mentioned they are keeping a very close tap on the developments in this market and are teaming up with various parties. But so far, no date for an electric PAL-V has been communicated.

Again, the long pole in the tent will be the certification. Even on an existing platform changing something essential as the power plant will require almost a complete new certification as lots of work will need to be redone.

I am not sure how much market there would at a considerable reduced range. As it is, this range is not that much. Of course, its marketed as being able to fly from Amsterdam to Paris, or London, or Stuttgart. Which is sort of 400-500 km range. But even with as little as a 20 km/h headwind you won’t make it in one go.

The 500 km range is sort of a magic number. It’s where other type of transport then a car, start coming into play, e.g. train/plane. But it is also a very European context.


Jeroen

Last edited by Jeroen : 17th April 2021 at 21:20.
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Old 18th April 2021, 01:16   #12
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You never seize to amaze me!

Back to topic, don't different countries have their own laws around such vehicles? I say this because a part of their clientele seems to be non European? Maybe drivers with a PPL is one of the upcoming job prospect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
And in my Cirrus I can fly above 20.000 feet and make use of the jetstream! But it is comparing chalk and cheese. We are talking two very different propositions. I still need my car to get to my Cirrus and I still need a car when I land my Cirrus.
Jeroen

Is there a thread on the Cirrus flying experience? Would make a great read just like all your other posts!
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Old 18th April 2021, 10:42   #13
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Excellent thread. That's a truckload of information you have shared!

Love the way people have kept trying their hands at the concept of the flying car even though past attempts have never really taken off. The PAL-V Liberty looks so advanced compared to the earlier ones. It's very desirable. The aircraft like interior is really impressive. Also love the way the flying gear is folded and carried.

Considering the tech on offer, the price is reasonable. Not sure about India, but the Middle East could be a good market.
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Old 18th April 2021, 12:57   #14
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Back to topic, don't different countries have their own laws around such vehicles? I say this because a part of their clientele seems to be non European? Maybe drivers with a PPL is one of the upcoming job prospect.
Yes, all countries tend to have their own laws considering both road and air vehicle. The air worthiness being by far the most complex. But as this vehicle will be certifified under EASA rules, it should be fairly straight forward to get its air worthiness recognised by other (national) aviation bodies. But each country will take a bit of work.

Also, the same applies to the pilot PPL certification. Different aviation bodies have all slightly different rules and criteria. If you have an EASA issues PPL, it is likely that you will have to take a written and/or oral test and a flight test in your own country again.


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Is there a thread on the Cirrus flying experience? Would make a great read just like all your other posts!
No, I have written about my experience in various aviation threads on TeamBHP.

I have virtually no photographs or video’s to share either. The reason is very simple and is one on the reasons I always loved flying. When I am busy flying or preparing a flight I am 1000% concentrated on the task at hand. I just don’t have the mental capacity to process anything else. No time to take photographs. It is a very focussed activity with no time to get distracted by anything!

There are a couple of video’s on my Youtube channel, taking by respectively my daughter and son, showing me flying a Cirrus. (The first one I am very proud of, because I landed at Catalina Island, which is considered one of the more challenging landings in the USA!)

Jeroen

Last edited by Jeroen : 18th April 2021 at 13:00.
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Old 18th April 2021, 16:13   #15
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Two doubts. The gyrocopter may not be susceptible to stall like other aircraft as you say but still it requires a particular forward speed to sustain flight. Which means it can't hover. When that speed falls it will come down and has to be put down somewhere? By very inexperienced pilot/driver?

That rear propeller seems very exposed when it operates as a road car. I mean totally open on one side. How dangerous will it be to a car rear ending it?
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