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Toys Transportation

Last Sky Commuter For Sale On eBay 189

DeltaV900 writes to alert us to an auction on eBay of the last Sky Commuter concept car. About 7 hours remain in the auction and the top bid at this writing is $55,100. The seller (with some help from posters in the auction forum) makes clear that the thing won't actually fly, and in fact never did. Other Sky Commuters may have hovered. This one traveled around to air shows and trade fairs.
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Last Sky Commuter For Sale On eBay

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  • Re:I can remember... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mantaar ( 1139339 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:26AM (#22032524) Homepage
    I totally agree with you. Pilots have to be 100% sober, have no criminal records, good sight (without the use of glasses), and pass a billion other tests. Flying around in mid-air is not quite like driving on the road. You have to keep track of wind, other flying vehicles, obstacles - and you have virtually no guidance (like roads). And when you make a mistake, you loose hard. Not only you, in fact, but everyone around you, too.

    Flying vehicles are too much of a risk to let them be guided by humans - you have to have some kind of computer controlled system that will mostly operate this thing for you while also keeping track of other vehicles.

    There are ideas to bring this kind of design to the road, but they've not matured yet. When we're able to control conventional traffic fully via computer systems, we may start thinking of inventing something flyable. I imagine that, just like with the transition from horses to cars, those flying cars would initially be using conventional roads (perhaps adding another layer on top of them - so we could stack highways instead of ruining the landscape with 6 or 8 lanes of asphalt) and only later have some special 'air-roads' for themselves, when the idea becomes more dominant.

    I don't think I'll ever be driving such a thing, but perhaps my kids?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:45AM (#22032586)
    Will not buy again! Flying car did not fly as advertised! A--!
  • As a pilot... (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2008 @06:27AM (#22032800)
    ...I'd have to say "you're a fucking idiot". Not because you are unintelligent, but because you obviously feel comfortable sprouting your misinformed opinions as gospel.

    The pilots are very, very useful for when things go wrong.

    Anyone who references "Air Crash Investigations" is a dolt. You may as well quote mythbusters.
  • Re:I can remember... (Score:2, Informative)

    by icebrain ( 944107 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @07:34AM (#22033036)
    Well, we know you've never actually flown an airplane before, because you wouldn't be making inane statements like this. Those restrictions aren't there because we're a bunch of snobs trying to hog all the fun; they have them because it's very easy to fuck up flying a plane, and if you do fuck up the consequences are a lot more severe than they would be in a car. Ground controllers don't fly the aircraft; in essence, their job is to make sure planes don't hit each other, which is actually a much bigger challenge than you would think. Of course, you wouldn't know that.

    Autopilots aren't there to replace the meatware... you find them on larger transport aircraft to take the load off the pilots so they can concentrate on the other stuff, like navigating around storms, dealing with clearances, or working the systems (especially in an emergency), without having to waste some brainpower on "keep the wings level". And all these automated systems you seem to get off to fail a lot more often than you would think. Knowing how to deal with emergencies, and being able to do it, are why airline pilots get paid what they do. Take a look sometime at crash statistics for the military's unmanned aircraft... simle software bugs or communications glitches have caused many crashes. They wouldn't have happened had there been a person on board to override the systems. I realize that pilots can cause accidents too, but they have one advantage an autopilot doesn't: common sense. The autopilot will happily drive you into the heart of a severe storm, or follow a spurious command to lock all your control surfaces at maximum deflection.

    Finally, a lot of airplanes don't have autopilots at all. The vast majority of light private aircraft don't; most of those that do don't have anything more complicated than a simple altitude and heading hold. And even in airliners, takeoffs are always flown manually; and unless restricted by weather or airspace, landings and most flight under 10,000 ft is as well. Crews generally only do autolands when they absolutely have to, and even then they keep very close watch in case something goes wrong.

    Tell you what: you go ahead and get on a fully automated airplane. I'll stick with human pilots, myself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2008 @07:52AM (#22033124)
    The guy who's selling it, Steven Stull, makes aircraft mock ups. See the pages here [] and here [] for a full size model of the Airwolf he build for a museum.
  • by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @08:06AM (#22033168)
    The "Autopilot" that landed in a forest was not an autopilot at all, it was the fly-by-wire computer system that overrulled the pilot by decending when he was trying to pull up....

    The reason we have pilots in aircraft is for the emergencies most commercial flights the autopilot flies the plane for most of the journey and can usually take off and land as well if required, but the pilots are needed to cope with situations the autopilot was not designed for (but this does not mean they can't be designed for this?)
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @01:09PM (#22036258) Homepage

    There are two fundamental problems with flying cars. First, reciprocating engines aren't quite powerful enough, and small turbojets cost too much. Second, they're unstable. Both problems could be solved, yielding an expensive but workable flying car.

    The engine is the big problem. People have been trying to downsize jet engines for decades. Small ones can be built, but once you get below small bizjet size, they don't get much cheaper. That's why general aviation is still running on pistons. A flying car in the $2 million range is probably feasible, but the market is limited and the engineering costs are high.

    Stability is partly a control system problem and partly an actuator problem. How do you exert attitude control in hover? Adjusting the fan speed of multiple fans is too slow. Adjusting blade pitch cyclically, like a helicopter, requires cramming all the machinery of a helicopter hub into each fan hub. VTOL jet fighters have been successful, sort of. The Harrier diverts about 10% of its jet thrust to attitude jets in hover, which yields quick control, but the Harrier has plenty of jet thrust to play with. The F-35 fighter has a steerable nozzle in the tail, a lift fan in the middle, slats under the fan, pitch nozzles in the wings, roll nozzles in the nose, doors to cover all this gear, and enough computer power to manage it. Even with all that, it's a marginal VTOL craft. The USSR tried several VTOL fighter designs over the years, but none of them worked very well. The Harrier variants are the only real success to date.

    The Sky Commuter was an exercise in weight reduction; it weighs about 400 pounds. That's one approach, but it didn't work.

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