A Dutch manufacturer says it has begun taking orders for a car-helicopter hybrid that will be delivered to the first customers late next year.
PAL-V says it designed the Liberty, as the Jetsons-esque flying car is known, for “successful people” who hate to waste time. And you’ll have to be successful in order to pay the roughly $600,000 asking price attached to the low-volume Limited Pioneer Edition, which will be followed by a $400,000 model called the Liberty Sport.
For that cool cash, you get a vehicle that can drive up to 1,315 km on 100 litres of premium unleaded fuel, or travel 500 km in the air. PAL-V is coy about details on the Liberty’s powertrain, the specs saying only its road-going engine is good for 100 hp, while a 200-hp unit powers the helicopter-type rotors that let it take to the air.
PAL-V says that despite the use of helicopter-like rotors, the Liberty is a gyroplane, which it says is safer and easier to fly than either a fixed-wing plane or a chopper. PAL-V says the Liberty’s design makes it less susceptible to turbulence and wind gusts than small fixed-wing craft, so this might be the flying tool for you if you get anxious in the air.
Another plus for nervous fliers is the fact the PAL-V is designed to be crash-proof: if both engines stall, the Liberty can be landed safely and much more easily than an unpowered helicopter.
Switching from driving to flying modes is partly automatic and takes no more than 10 minutes – the pilot’s hands-on work limited to manually unfolding rotor, prop and tail – and is done as part of the pre-flight safety check. In car mode, the Liberty is a little more than 13 feet long and five-and-a-half feet tall to allow it to fit in confined spaces, like parking garages.
We’d hardly expect a vehicle that does a decent job of both driving and flying to be cheap, and indeed, PAL-V says its creation is as pricey as it is because of work it has done to ensure the Liberty conforms to both road and flight safety rules set by regulators in both Europe and North America.
As far as rules go, PAL-V says you will need a pilot’s licence to fly that Liberty, and while the 3,500-metre maximum cruise altitude means you’ll largely be in uncontrolled airspace and won’t require you to file a flight plan, you do have to take off and land at airfields.
Even if you’ve got the coin to buy a Liberty, part of the commitment involves a non-refundable security deposit that goes bye-bye if, for whatever reason, PAL-V isn’t able to make its machine a production reality.
So as much as we hope this is the answer to our personal air travel dreams, we’ll believe the PAL-V is more than vaporware when it delivers the first concrete examples to paying customers.