It sounds like the stuff of science fiction – or maybe a Back to the Future remake? – but a prototype flying car has just completed a trip between two European city.
The hybrid car-aircraft, dubbed AirCar by its creators, made the 35-minute journey between international airports in the Slovakian cities of Nitra and Bratislava this week.
On his arrival in Bratislava, creator Stefan Klein drove the $3 million vehicle straight off the runway and into town.
He described his flight, early on Monday morning (local time), as “normal” and “very pleasant”. The hybrid car-plane reached a cruising speed of 170km/h on its 75-kilometre journey between the two cities.
The AirCar has a BMW engine and runs on regular petrol-pump fuel. It can carry two people, with a combined weight limit of 200 kilograms.
Professor Klein said it could fly about 1000 kilometres, at a height of 2500 metres. He has already clocked up 40 hours in the air.
But the aircraft isn’t quite ready to be flown down driveways yet. It needs runways to take-off and land.
Narrow wings fold down along the AirCar’s sides in preparation for take-off – a process that takes just over two minutes.
The company behind the vehicle, said the prototype has taken about two years to develop and had cost “less than €2 million ($A3 million)”.
Klein Vision adviser and investor Anton Zajac said if the company could attract even a small percentage of global airline or taxi sales, it would be hugely successful.
“There are about 40,000 orders of aircraft in the United States alone,” he said.
“If we convert 5 per cent of those, to change the aircraft for the flying car – we have a huge market.”
Stephen Wright, a senior research fellow in avionics and aircraft, at the University of the West of England, was a little more sceptical. He said the AirCar reminded him of “the lovechild of a Bugatti Veyron and a Cesna 172”.
“Anyone can make an aeroplane but the trick is making one that flies and flies and flies for the thick end of a million hours, with a person on board, without having an incident,” he told the BBC.
“I can’t wait to see the piece of paper that says this is safe to fly and safe to sell.”