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The Second Century of Flight: Personal Air Vehicles

by John M. White |

Coming soon to a suburb near year will be Personal Air Vehicles, or PAVs.  These are brand new generation small and light aircraft which can bring an amazing transformation to how we commute to work and back.  In order to meet America's future needs for mobility, NASA engineers have developed the PAV concept to provide a less centralized and more evenly distributed system for air travel.

In order to speed up development of these new PAVs NASA Centennial Challenges has provided $ 2M in cash prizes for a flight competition called the "PAV Challenge."  This challenge is modeled after the "X Prize" which led to the first sub-orbital flight by a civilian vehicle.  This challenge will be held annually at the CAFE Foundation's Flight Test Center.

Goals for PAVs are as follow:

  • Simplified operation of the vehicle that would be similar to driving an automobile;    
  • The use of synthetic vision to allow near all-weather operations of the vehicle;    
  • The ability to travel between 150 and 200 miles per hour;    
  • The ability to fly above gridlock to avoid automobile traffic delays;    
  • High efficiency engines able to use alternative fuels;    
  • A range of up to 800 miles;    
  • The ability to use short runways;    
  • The development of small residential airfields;    
  • Cost efficient as air travel or automobile travel;    
  • Vehicle to be quiet, safe, reliable and comfortable

Some of these vehicles are already under development.  One very interesting one is called "PAL-V" which combines “tilting car” technology with the safest and easiest principle of flying, the gyrocopter. Palv_6_groot

While technical challenges surely remain, the effort is underway to put a car/airplane in every garage just like Henry Ford wanted to put a Model T in every garage.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!


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