1980s “Sky Commuter” Flying Car Prototype Sold at Auction
January 28, 2015
This is 2015. Fans of the 1989 film Back to the Future Part 2 all know that this October, Marty McFly is supposed to arrive in Hill Valley, California from the past. The future he was met with was chock full of flying cars, shoelaces that tied themselves, hover boards and giant 3D sharks that chomped down from movie theatre marquees.
While there are Kickstarter campaigns in the works to make some of those things a reality, the one thing we’ve may have had all along is the flying car. No, not a flying time-travelling DeLorean you’d need to take mechanic courses to work on. In fact this car doesn’t work at all, although it has been sold at an auction for $71,500.
The Sky Innovations Saga
Back in the 1980s, a group of former Boeing engineers formed Sky Innovations, setting up shop just outside of Everett, Washington. Their goal was simple: to create the world’s first Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) personal car.
If successful, they would not only change the very nature of auto technician training, but also create a very unique product for auto sales college graduates to sell. That didn’t happen. They did, however, amass $6 million in investments, which in today’s terms is roughly $11 million.
They did come up with the Sky Commuter and built three prototypes, only one of which still exists. Unfortunately the company folded in 1989.
What Made the Sky Commuter Different?
Before the Sky Commuter, most projected designs for flying cars involved attaching airplane wings to common compact cars. The Sky Commuter on the other hand, had unpowered tricycle road wheels and landing gear. An onboard gas turbine engine made it move, whether it was on the ground or in the air. The engine was in the back of the automobile and used two helicopter-style drive shafts to move the exhaust out of the vehicle. Some of the other features included:
- Electric joystick control
- Two foot pedals for each seat (so two people could drive)
- Three huge lifting fans
- Carbon fibre and Kevlar front dash shell
- Access to the rear engine and electronics bay by tilting seats forward
- Ability to land on, float on and take off from water
Sky Innovations claims to have conducted flight tests which resulted in speeds of 85 miles per hour over a range of 225 miles. Unfortunately, there is no photographic, video or eyewitness evidence, except for the accounts of people who worked for the company. The model that sold at the auction had the engine removed and replaced by a non-functioning mock-up – so there remains no way to test the claims made by Sky Innovations.
However, the likelihood of a working hover board using magnetic levitation technology is getting closer to becoming a reality.
Do you think we will ever truly have flying cars on the market? Is it a good idea to try?
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