November 14, 2014 @ 05:45 PM

Friday Fives: The car that takes to the skies… how about NO!

The Aeromobil 3.0 is the closest thing yet to personalised flight. A very concerned Arvind Kumar has a few doubts about plane-cars working in Malaysia

The Aeromobil 3.0 is the closest thing yet to personalised flight. A very concerned Arvind Kumar has a few doubts about plane-cars working in Malaysia
I have to ease off my routine adornment of Japanese sports cars for this week in Friday Fives because of something interesting that has been intriguing a wide audience on Youtube recently. The video dubbed Flying Car which features the latest evolution of the Aeromobil (3.0) plane-car, brain child of inventor and flying aficionado Ṧtefan Klein. 

The Aeromobil 3.0 is powered by a Rotax 912 engine horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine with collapsible wings made from steel framework and draped in a carbon coating. In car mode, top speed is rated at 160kph. Once in the air, the Aeromobil can achieve 200kph for a total range of 700km. It seats two and looks rather futuristic with its streamlined body and aggressive front end. 

The video amazes when Ṧtefan casually drives the Aeromobil 3.0 out of an aircraft hangar onto crowded public roads before arriving at grassy airfield for a brief and successful test flight. Suitably inspiring stuff. And I don’t mean to be a sceptic because we love embracing new technology and a plane car would definitely fit the bill. 

However, I have some reservations on a plane-car working here on home-soil. So this week, let’s look at the top five utterly comical reasons why we should still stick to the tyres-on-ground, non-flying caveman cars.

5: Fuel for plane cars
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While in-flight refuelling has been around for a while. It’s still strictly limited to military applications. In Malaysia, we are spoilt for choice with ample locations to refuel on our daily commute. And there are many of us (me included), that imagine our near empty fuel tanks will run on hopes-and-dreams as long as we keep uttering the all-powerful phrase - she’ll get there, just a little bit more.
However, this is an alarming risk to take when cruising at 200kph around 2,000ft above the ground. Hopes-and-dreams will not suffice here and instead of slowing to a halt. Hopeful plane-car pilots will instead be nose diving at breakneck speeds to a fiery doom just because they missed the last Petronas as they left their home. And really, how often has that happened to you. Good luck getting a tow after that.
4: Proper mechanical assistance.
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Have you heard the saying, “Aiya… that car ‘bawah-pokok’ mechanic also can fix la.” Well, unless the mechanic is Mr. Ṧtefan Klein himself, I’m not buying it. There have been many horror stories of local mechanics providing sub-standard replacement parts, dodgy service and god-forbid discounts. 

Even if my plane-car was a Proton, I would need to see regulated identification cards of competency to remove even the cupholder from my plane-car. Because I have also heard something else the common mechanic in Malaysia says from time-to-time, “Don’t worry got warranty one month, if anything ‘rosak’ you bring back I fix for you.” Well, there will be no ‘bring back’ once I have plummeted from the sky into garbage-disposal truck in my Proton plane-car.  

3: Warranty
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Now warranties are a good thing. It means for the next few pre-determined years, you can go to bed at night knowing your plane-car is insured against unforeseen mechanical failures which normally cost a lot to put right. It also means your plane-car receives the best service and diagnostics equipment to weed out faults prematurely and a tow-truck in case you get stranded but we’ve already covered how effective that is with a plane-car.

However, warranties have clauses. And one clause in particular the sits true across the many different car-makers is service scheduling punctuality must be adhered to. Miss that service by 1000km and kiss your warranty goodbye. Now if my plane-car is a Volkswagen or Nissan (known to strictly enforce their warranty clauses), I would hate to have my warranty disappearing 2000ft in the air because I could not find a service centre where I landed. Failure of complying would undoubtedly put me at risk of reason four and ultimately lead to a fiery catastrophe in due time.

2: Mid-flight breakdowns
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Now I don’t mean to be rude, but all car makers are known for something comical or another. The quirky French cars for their weird styling, the Germans for the precision and ultimately boring cars, Proton with their tricky power windows (although now even that comes with a warranty) and the Italians for their… yup, you guessed it: incomprehensible breakdowns.

So if my plane-car was an Alfa Romeo (no pun intended). I would hate for my gearbox to suddenly jam because the fuel pump seizes. Apparently, the way around it according to Alfa owners is to climb under the car and smack the gearbox pump with a spanner or a large rock. Sure, climb out of your plane-car mid-flight and by all means get that done, because a tow-truck is still more useless than a rock at this point.

1: Drunk flying 
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Well perhaps not only a Malaysian problem only but nonetheless drunk flying can be a very pernicious problem. While on the road, cars these days employ smart cameras, GPS guidance and active braking to aid drivers in staying out of a bush or bowling over pedestrians in crowded city scapes.

But until plane-cars are able and adept at providing similar nanny-systems in their machines, I would like to keep them off the roads and clear of the skies. I mean it could just be me, but no one likes to be woken up by a barking dog in the middle of the night, let alone a slightly UFO like plane-car crashing into your living room because your neighbour could not open his front gate in time due to having one too many before that. Again forget the tow-truck, commission a crane instead.

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