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Parajet Skycar: Advanced Adventuring PT Barnum Style
- Type: Flying car (powered parachute)
- Class: Light sport aircraft
- Manufacturer: Parajet
- Propulsion system: 4-cylinder, 1000cc engine
- Fuel(s): Biofuel (ethanol and gasoline)
- Tailpipe emissions: Yes
- Price: £50,000
- Availability: 2010
In "Rode Mode"
- Top Speed: 110 mph (180 km/h)
- Zero-to-100 km/h: 4.5 seconds
- Vehicle range: 248 miles (400 km)
In "Fly Mode"
- Top Speed: 50 mph (110 km/h)
- Vehicle range: 186 miles (300 km)
- Cruising altitude: 2000-3000 ft
- Maximum altitude: 15,000 ft
The manufacturer says
"Whether you are searching for environmentally friendly transport or new thrills the Parajet SkyCar is no longer a dream … a machine that can drive like a car and fly like an aeroplane."
Fundamentally a powered parachute (PPC), the Parajet SkyCar may prove to be a quantum leap in the still fogged-in world of flying cars for one big reason: Unlike the fixed-wing Terrafugia Transition, which when in flight aims to be nothing short of an airplane, the SkyCar emerged from the sport of paramotoring, and applies those principles towards achieving and sustaining flight.
Its 'wings' are actually contained within the cleverly designed parafoil. In flight, the pilot steers the SkyCar by using foot pedals in the cabin connected to cables which accordingly alter wing shape. The design certainly lacks the kind of control given pilots of fixed-wing aircraft, but it's enough not only to get her airborne but to result in extreme stability.
Parajet was founded in 1999 by self-taught aviation engineer Gilo Cardozo, who was not yet twenty years old at the time. In 2003 he began designing and manufacturing paramotors for use in powered paragliding. It is by way of these high quality engines—and a stunt in which a journalist flew a Parajet Volution (the powered paraglider sold by Cardoza) over the summit of Mt Everest—that Cardoza has built his reputation in this niche arena.
What we like
The transition time.. You can take the SkyCar from road mode to fly mode in a scant three minutes, requiring little more than getting the wing out of the vehicle's trunk space and properly unfurling it. Transitioning in the opposite direction takes even less time.
The safety features. Early pioneers in transportation face a higher threat of death than the rest of us; a fact the dawn of the flying car age will very likely bear out. That said, the SkyCar's safety features go some way in avoiding this. Threat of stalling or going into a nosedive in the SkyCar (or any PPC) is eliminated because the pilot has no pitch control. An emergency parachute is also available.
The FAA Classification. In the US, a single-person PCC requires neither pilot's license nor training, but the FAA regards a two-place vehicle like the SkyCar as a light sport aircraft, requiring at least a sport pilot certificate and flight instruction. Morons are morons, but the fewer unlicensed morons there are fluttering about in the atmosphere, the better.
What we don't
The design. The prototype SkyCar looks like a dune buggy, probably because it is one. Granted there was at least one very good reason for this choice (namely, the Sahara—see below), the good news is that the vehicle's next generation model, the Parajet SkyCar II, looks to have a vastly superior design.
Parajet recently completed what could be described as one of the more elaborate proof-of-concept trials in recent memory, taking the SkyCar on an expedition rarely heard about these days: A 42-day, 4,000 mile trip from Northern France across western Europe, the Pyrenees mountains, the Straits of Gibraltar, and the Sahara Desert, ending in the legendary western African town of Timbuktu in Mali.
Their convoy featured one Parajet SkyCar piloted by Cardozo, an 8-wheel drive support truck, two 4x4’s, one 650cc road bike, and three 450cc off-road motorcycles. It left Northern France on January 13 2009 amidst plenty of press and, despite kidnap threats coming out of Mali, they successfully arrived in Timbuktu on 25 February 2009.
This adventurous proof-of-concept, coupled with expeditions over Everest, across Antarctica and the jungles of Venezuela, show that Cardoza is not only an accomplished aviation engineer in his own right, but that he's a little bit PT Barnum.
It's a common misnomer to say we're frequent flyers; at best we're frequently flown. Advancing technology has made flying routine and sapped it of its inherent sparkle.
Yet in utilizing exotic locales as proving grounds for their products, Parajet expeditions are 'brought to us at great expense' in that Barnum style, reminding us that no matter how it's done, human-powered flight—regarded by almost every human generation as an impossible dream—is as thrilling and astonishing as it has always been.
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