Thu, Jan 15, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Flying car leaves London for Timbuktu


Two British adventurers set off yesterday in a home-made vehicle that can transform itself from a car into an aircraft in minutes. Their destination? Timbuktu.

On the ground the Skycar runs on a biofuel-powered engine and can accelerate from 0kph to 100kph in 4.5 seconds.

But with a powerful fan on the rear its take-off speed is 60kph, and once in the air it can fly at speeds of up to around 110kph, cruising at up to 900m with a paraglider-style canopy holding it aloft.

At 9am yesterday, inventor Giles Cardozo and expedition leader Neil Laughton prepared to leave the British capital for the 6,000km trip through France, Spain and north Africa, across the Sahara to the fabled desert city of Timbuktu in Mali.

The journey is expected to take some 40 days, during which they plan to soar over the Pyrenees and the Straits of Gibraltar between southern Spain and Africa.

With four-wheel drive, it can allegedly deal with the most rugged terrain, starting on the city streets of London and ending in the sands of the Sahara.

“It’s not like a car — it’s more like a dune buggy,” Cardozo said. “But no other dune buggy or car has flown like this thing before. It flies brilliantly.”

When the need for flight arises — estimated to be for 40 percent of the journey — the ParaWing, a parachute of the type used by paragliders, is dragged behind the vehicle and the propeller on the back boosts the Skycar down whatever happens to be serving as an improvised runway.

The journey will be the Skycar’s maiden voyage and the expedition leader said the car had not yet been tested to any “distance, heat or endurance” and that there was an element of “mad Brits” about the adventure. A support team of up to 13 people will be at hand as they make their journey.

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