Sam Phlip12 November 2008

Lofty ambitions

British team plans epic London-to-Timbuktu voyage. In a flying car…

Skycar in action

"Next January, gentlemen, we shall travel from London to Timbuktu. In a flying car..."

It might sound like the opening line from a Jules Verne film adaptation, but that's more or less exactly how the meeting went over at Parajet a few months ago when they were working out what to do with their Skycar.

In order to demonstrate that flying cars aren't confined to sci-fi novels and Dick Van Dyke movies, they're planning on flying the 4000-odd miles from London, down through France and Spain, over Morocco, across the Sahara and all the way to the Malian capital. Never before has that brave/stupid overlap been so apparent.

The Skycar is exactly what you think it is: a buggy with a paragilder wing and a propellor on the back. It's powered by a biofuel-drinkingYamaha bike engine that, when the buggy is on the road, drives the rear wheels and will see the Skycar to 62mph in just under five seconds... with the wing stowed safely away.

However, in flying mode - converting from land mode to air mode takes around three minutes - it powers that rear-facing propellor, and will hustle the Skycar up to a cruising speed of 68mph at an altitude of around 3,000 feet. However, if you want to get really, really high, it'll lift you right the way up to 15,000 feet. You'll be glad to hear there's an emergency reserve parachute on board.

Parajet says that the biggest advantage of the Skycar is that it can take off at speeds as low as 36mph on a runway just 200 metres long, making it - and we're not making this up - a great way for commuters to beat congestion.

Yes, it sounds like the word of mad people. But, according to Parajet at least, the Skycar actually works - they're currently in final testing before setting off on their cross-continental mission early next year.

Best of luck, chaps. See you in Timbuktu for afternoon tea...

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