Slovakian start-up Klein Vision this week flew its AirCar prototype between Nitra airfield and the international airport in the country’s capital, Bratislava. The 35-minute sortie with the two-seat flying car means that the company has now completed more than 40 flight test hours as it seeks certification under EASA’s CS-23 rules.
The 50-mile flight was the AirCar’s longest so far in terms of distance, but it has previously been airborne for as long as 90 minutes. Klein Vision is aiming for a range of up to around 1,000 km (621 miles) and speeds of around 300 km/h (186 mph).
A 160-hp BMW motorcycle engine powers the current prototype, but now the company is starting to build a pre-production model that will have a 300-hp aircraft engine. It expects to have this ready to start test flights by July 2022, with type certification expected to take another 18 months beyond that date.
Once the EASA process is complete, Klein Vision will apply for European M1 certification for use of the AirCar as a road vehicle. In the meantime, the company expects to be able to build and sell “experimental models” in a limited-production series.
The pre-production model will be a monocoque structure, meaning the main body of the vehicle will be one complete structure. It will retain the first prototype's twin-boom tail, which acts as a spoiler to slow the vehicle when it's on approach for landing by generating downward force. The new version also will feature a variable-pitch pusher propeller to increase speed as well as a ballistic whole-aircraft safety parachute.
Klein Vision’s patented technology includes the process by which the two-seater AirCar converts from flight to road mode, which is expected to take around two minutes and 15 seconds. “We wanted to create a vehicle that looks like a sports car,” explained co-founder Anton Zajac. “The wings fold in and then are lifted and moved back into a horizontal position, with the tail moving forward.” This process shortens the length of the AirCar so that it is about an inch shorter than a Mercedes Benz S-Class car, and so is able to park in a standard garage or outdoor parking space.
At face value, it can seem hard to imagine AirCar’s low profile to the ground being well suited to landings, but this is taken into account by the tail section, which is lengthened when the wings are deployed, shifting the center of gravity in the first place. “It lands just like any other light airplane, like a Piper or a Cessna, with the rear wheels touching down first,” Zajac told FutureFlight. “There is no need for a special mechanism for the angle of attack on landing, and it will be a normal rotation.”
The anticipated runway length requirement for takeoffs and landings is around 380 meters (1,247 feet). This opens up thousands of small airfields to AirCar owners.
The manufacturer is working on the assumption that owner-operators will need no more than a private pilot’s license to fly the vehicle. It will run on standard gasoline to allow full flexibility for road trips.
During the short flight from Nitra to Bratislava, Kajac and co-founder Stefan Klein flew the AirCar at an altitude of 8,200 feet and at around 115 mph. After making what was the vehicle’s 142nd landing at the airport, they converted the vehicle to road use and drove directly into the center of Bratislava.
The entrepreneurs say they have sufficient funds to complete type certification and begin production, but add that they remain open to outside investors. They plan to manufacture the flying car locally, with support from what they say is a solid network of engineering expertise in Slovakia.
This isn’t the only flying car heading for the personal transportation market from the central European country. Klein, who has experience as a transport and design professor, has been working on flying car concepts for more than two decades. He previously founded a company called AeroMobil but sold his stake in this venture back in 2016 to form Klein Vision.
In March, AeroMobil reported it had achieved key airworthiness targets in flight testing for its two-seat AM4 flying car as it progresses toward completing certification under EASA’s CS-23 regulations before the end of 2023. The vehicle bears a clear resemblance to the AirCar, although there are evidently some significant differences in design and technology.
According to AeroMobil, under the supervision of the Slovakian civil aviation authority, it has conducted flight tests lasting 50 or more minutes. Its flight tests are being operated from the country’s Trencin Airport.
During the most recent round of flight tests, the AM4 achieved its top-speed target of 160 mph and a stall speed of around 69 mph. It also demonstrated its ability to take off in just 1,300 feet. Powered by a turbocharged 300 bhp internal combustion engine, the 4.0 offers a flying range of up to around 460 miles and a driving range of up to 620 miles.