The FAA granted to Terrafugia approval of its proposed test program to assess whether its airborne auto prototype, called the TF-X, may be issued a Type Certificate.
That’s the beginning of a VERY long process particularly for an innovative design which must be both airworthy when flying and crashworthy when it’s on the ground. The Terrafugia project will require the FAA to design new standards for the aircraft design includes a system which “will automatically take-off, fly and land on its own taking weather, fuel consumption and other factors into consideration.” The pilot/driver will only have to set the locations of the departure and arrival. Thus, the company believes that the pilot/driver will require a lesser FAA pilot test. Talk about AUTO PILOT, this new airplane concept will set a new standard for that concept.
The Terrafugia, AeroMobil, PAL-V and California-based Moller International all have declared their intentions to launch such “carcrafts.” Most are fixed wing airplanes, but one proposal is for “mix between a motorcycle and a gyrocopter.” There are many known proposals and likely more with unannounced intentions. The prospective take-off-anywhere/land-anywhere vehicle fleet may be substantial. The airworthiness certifications are complex, but the operational challenges are even more daunting!
Consider trying to integrate the TF-X into your average ordinary community—take off from a suburban road and navigating kites, trees, telephone lines, cell towers, church steeples, etc. soon after take-off. How will these risks be identified for the pilot or the autopilot? Does this mean that the owners of these vehicles will be required to receive greater training, not less?
Should NextGen’s planning include these bimodal or air-amphibious vehicles to guide them among low level hazards?
How does the car/plane announce its entry into the airspace; for once aloft, it poses a risk to other aircraft; so its presence and the position of other aircraft already flying will have to be announced? The same issue reoccurs with equal measure when the TF-X approaches its destination.
Will the carcraft be prohibited to fly in IFR? Should the airborne autos be mandated to depart and arrive only at airports? Wherever their “runways may be, how must they file their flight plans and how far in advance must it be filed? With what FAA office?
Can these vehicles be used for compensation or hire? They are the ideal taxi vehicle and consider the Uber model applied to these aircraft. What standards would then be applied to the TC exercise and any common carrier authority?
Add to the mix the burgeoning fleet of UASs and the complexity explodes. Integrating carcraft with drones, with/without “sense-and-avoid”/ATC, etc. will stress out the needed and available technology. Two types of flying, both with limited experience in the NAS, will challenge the FAA.
If anything, the sad lessons of the FAA’s attempt to deal with the introduction of this disruptive form of flying into the NAS should merit the FAA establishing a task force of visionary thinkers NOW to address this invasion of cars into the airspace.
ARTICLE: HERE’S your flying car…maybeShare this article: