Quote from the Founder of Ferrari

"The Ferrari is a dream-people dream of owning this special vehicle and for most people it will remain a dream, apart from for those lucky few." -Enzo Ferrari

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flying Ferraris may be in our Future

The California-based Moller International is beginning its flying prototype test mule with a Ferrari 599 GTB, or at least a scale model of one, and Paul Moller insists that the end result is workable and has production potential.
This isn't the first time Moller took on such projects and the company bearing his name. He's been working on the flying car since the early '80s, and his dream hasn't taken flight yet. There are two other creations which include the Moller M200 flying saucer and the M400 Sky Car, both which received lots of press on their way to obscurity.
Thanks to a wealthy Russian businessman who clearly wants to commute to his Moscow office quicker than his competitors in the style he's become used to, Moller hopes to have a life-size prototype of the Autovolanter flying soon. The car will be able to fly 75 miles without refueling and travel by ground for a total of 150 miles, says Moller, giving it a range necessary for short-range commuting.
This in consideration, it can't be a plane only flyable by specially trained pilots, but rather needs to be easy enough to be managed by an occasional weekend pilot.
The Autovolanter scale prototype shows helicopter-like blades enclosed within the car's "fuselage" for verticle lift, similar in principal to Britain's Harrier fighter jet or more recently, the Rolls-Royce Lift Fan and 3 Bearing Swivel Module (3BSM) that provides the verticle lift capability for the EU's Joint Strike Fighter, which is also known as the Eurofighter. While it appears as though the Autovolanter would get some verticle takeoff and landing capability it's more likely these fans are positioned to increase in-flight stability and allow greater computer control. The car-plane will also feature a large wing folded over its backside when not in use.
Unexpectedly, only 800-horsepower is needed, says Moller, to achieve flight. While such power should be possible through a tightly sprung version of Ferrari's V12, the engine simply weighs too much to work. Instead, the Autovolanter uses a hybrid powertrain featuring a rotary gasoline engine making approximately 350-horsepower and an electric motor developing about 500-horsepower.
Just like one of Ferraris F1 cars the Autovolanter is limited by fuel restraints. Rather than going a few more laps on a fully filled tank, the car-plane requires just the right balance of fuel versus weight on board to eliminate the problem of where the heavier it becomes, the shorter the range. Increasing consumption further, the added weight of excess fuel means that it needs more to get airborne.
While the idea is great in a George Jetson meets Enzo sort of way, news suggests Moller's dream may remain just that if considerable funding (approximately $5 million) doesn't intervene. Then again, even if an insurance company is not no longer seeking to underwrite the project, there just might be a wealthy Middle-Eastern sheik needing a flying Ferrari for his personal militia to go along with that wealthy Russian businessman. Paul, keep your fingers crossed.

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