It might sound something from a James Bond film, or even the ultimate solution for harassed motorists stuck in a traffic jam: a sports car that sprouts wings and can convert into a plane.
But the AeroMobil, a two-seater car that also functions as a fully working plane, will be launched this week, thanks in part to an engineer from Northumberland who helped get the idea off the ground.
The vehicle, which will take the stage at the Top Marques Show in Monaco on Thursday, has been developed by a company in Slovakia, but its chief technical officer is Blyth-born Douglas MacAndrew, who until recently worked for a company in the North East.
The AeroMobil is expected to hit the market within the next three years but drivers will be able to buy it before then, provided they can meet its price tag of “several hundred thousand Euro”.
The launch of the car marks the end of nearly two years of work for Mr MacAndrew, who was brought in to help create the futuristic vehicle after a successful career working as an engineer at Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes, McLaren, and most recently Washington’s Smith Electric Vehicles.
Commenting on how he became involved in the AeroMobil project Mr MacAndrew, a former pupil of Plessey Road and Newlands schools in Blyth, said: “My ex-boss at McLaren contacted me and asked me to take a look at the business and the product, convincing me that he believed in the approach and direction taken to date.
“I visited Slovakia and spent time with the team and the product, looking, as you expect, for the reasons why it wasn’t possible. I am an engineer after all and we are always looking for the holes and not appreciating the donuts.
“I couldn’t find the reasons that would prevent a product of this sort being commercialised and I believe that the product we are now showing in Monaco on the 20th, its world premier, is a demonstration of its credibility as a means of providing users with operational flexibility and freedom of movement.”
Once the AeroMobil is manufactured, the company say, motorists will be able to drive the car on roads with a standard car driving licence. For those wanting to take to the sky in their new car, it is expected that they will need a Sport Pilot Licence (SPL) which usually requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight training.
The AeroMobil comes with a number of challenges that Mr MacAndrew and his team had to overcome. These include reducing the car’s weight, improving its operational performance, as well as ensuring occupant and vehicle safety.
Discussing the challenges Mr MacAndrew said: “This project is definitely the biggest challenge I have taken on and one that I would not have been confident in delivering if it were not for the experience gained from working in Land Rover, McLaren, Mercedes and Smith EV.”
Source : Chroniclelive