Aviation pioneer Burt Rutan officially retired in April, but his last creation was unveiled Sunday: a hybrid-electric roadable aircraft that's already taken a few short hops in testing. It's real, but not quite real enough.
Rutan's company Scaled Composites says the Model 367 BiPod seats two, with the road steering handled from the left side pod and air travel from the right. On the ground, the BiPod's 31-foot wings are stored between its fuselages, then unfolded before flight. Power comes from twin 450cc engines, one in each pod, powering 15kw electric motors and charging lithium-ion battery packs in the nose cones.
So far the BiPod hasn't flown much beyond a few feet above a Mojave Desert runway, as Scaled Composites has yet to install the propellers in the nosecone and rear stabilizers that would propel it at altitude. But when fully assembled, the BiPod is designed to cruise at 200mph for 530 miles; a low-power mode cuts the speed in half but increases the range to 760 miles. On the road, the BiPod should drive normally, but has a range of 820 miles on a tank of fuel with 35 miles on electric power alone.
While the BiPod has some clear advantages over other flying car projects such as the Terrafugia, Rutan's retirement and Scaled Composites' role as a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman means someone else would have to pick up the baton to bring it to production. Richard Branson to the white courtesy phone...
Hat tip to Kim!