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Up, Up, and Away! 7 Modern Flying Car Designs

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Almost since the invention of the automobile, people have dreamed of building a single vehicle that could drive on the road and take to the sky. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to build a viable "roadable aircraft" "“ a self-contained airplane/car hybrid "“ but few of these concepts ever made it off the drawing board. And even fewer made it off the ground. But with advances in technology and engineering, modern designs for the flying car are making that dream closer to reality.

1. AFA Sokol A400

One such design is the Sokol A400 from the Advanced Flying Automobile (AFA) Company of Huntington Beach, California. At first glance, the A400 looks like a new model sports car, with its swooping lines and sporty appearance. A look under the hood would further your assumption, as you would find a Chevy Corvette engine, capable of reaching speeds of 100MPH. However, at the touch of a button, telescopic wings emerge from the roof; a rear propeller pops up from the trunk; the "spoiler" becomes a vertical stabilizer that extends up over the car; and, finally, a pair of horizontal stabilizers appear from just behind the rear wheels. James Bond would be proud.

The A400 is still in the engineering phase, though a one-quarter scale model is currently being tested. AFA hopes to have a full-sized prototype built in the next few years, with production to begin within five years if possible. The projected cost to consumers looks to be somewhere in the range of $300,000 - $400,000.

2. The Milner AirCar

milner4-web.jpgAnother promising design is the AirCar by Milner Motors in Vancouver, Washington. This flying car is a four-door, four-seater with wings that fold up over the rear of the vehicle when driving, making it about the same width as a Toyota Corolla. It uses dual ducted fans (a propeller mounted inside a cylinder, which allows for more thrust than a standard propeller) to reach air speeds of up to 200MPH for a 1,000 mile flight range. To keep you under the speed limit on the ground, a separate 40-hp engine operates the wheels while driving.

According to the Milner website, a working prototype of the AirCar is currently being constructed. Once the design has been put into production, the estimated price is somewhere in the neighborhood of $450,000.

3. Macro SkyRider XR2

skyrider-XR2.jpgOne of the major concerns people have with the idea of a roadable aircraft is the safety issue surrounding a bunch of fast, flying objects all trying to occupy the same airspace. One company, Macro Industries, is taking this into consideration with the development of their four-passenger, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle, the SkyRider XR2.

Macro is specifically building their flying car to integrate a "highway in the sky" computerized navigation system being developed by NASA. The new system will be similar to our current turn-by-turn GPS navigators, but will also be able to monitor air traffic to determine the best altitude and route to take to avoid other vehicles. SkyRider XR2 would take this system a step further by allowing you to simply program a destination and it will do the flying for you, making changes along the way based upon air traffic and weather conditions.

The SkyRider XR2 is still in the prototype phase while they look for investors to help fund the project. Once they're able to start building, they estimate the cost to be $500,000 to $1 million at first, but hope to get the cost down to $50,000 once demand makes mass production possible.

But what if the most feasible flying car isn't a car at all? Two companies are working on flying motorcycles with very different takes on the concept.

4. Samson SkyBike

skybike.jpg

Samson Motorworks is developing the SkyBike, a two-passenger "Multi-Mode Vehicle" (MMV) with telescoping wings that appear from the sides of a shark-like body. Running on regular unleaded gasoline, the bike is expected to get 55 MPG on the ground and will be capable of flying 220 miles before refilling the tank. However, they're working on a hybrid version that will hopefully make this an even more efficient vehicle on the ground and in the air.

5. PAL-V One

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Another three-wheeled vehicle comes from the company PAL-V Europe, but this model has a distinct twist: The PAL-V One looks like a car, handles like a motorcycle, but flies like a gyrocopter. The rotor blades fold up on the roof when not in use, and a rear-mounted propeller is hidden by the tail that slides in and out from the back. The PAL-V One will cruise at 125MPH for 500 miles, but unlike many flying car models, will travel at an altitude of only 4,000 feet "“ high enough to get out of street traffic, but low enough to stay away from normal planes.

Both flying motorcycles are still in development, with the SkyBike projected to become available in late-2009, and the PAL-V One ready as soon as 2011.

While these concept vehicles are fun to dream about, there are a few flying cars that are really taking off (pun entirely intended):

6. Parajet SkyCar

skycar-web.jpgThe Parajet SkyCar is designed to be an off-road vehicle, with the added ability of flying over obstacles like mountains or water. To accomplish lift, it uses a large, rear-mounted propeller that runs on bio-fuel and a parasail wing that extends from the top of the vehicle. This combination allows the car to fly for around 185 miles at nearly 70 MPH, all at a cruising altitude of 2,000 "“ 3,000 feet (maximum is 15,000 feet).

But the SkyCar isn't just a sketch on someone's drawing board. Starting on January 14, 2009, a team of adventurers "“ driving a caravan of motorbikes, 4-wheel drive vehicles, and the SkyCar "“ went on an expedition, traveling from London to Timbuktu. The team crossed through England, France, Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara Desert using the Skycar as aerial reconnaissance to help guide the caravan through the various types of terrain. Not only was the journey impressive, the SkyCar also set a record as the first bio-fuel flying car to cross the Straits of Gibraltar. The expedition ended on February 25 as riotous crowds welcomed the adventurers to the city center of Timbuktu. It was an amazing feat and a true testament to the feasibility of a roadable aircraft.

skycar-next.jpg

If you'd like your own aerial reconnaissance buggy, the SkyCar will soon be available with a projected purchase price in the neighborhood of $100,000. Or you might want to wait for the next generation model currently being designed "“ a sleek, silver beast that would look good on the road or off.

7. Terrafugia Transition

fly-web.jpgHowever, if you're looking to navigate the urban jungle, you might want to consider The Transition from Terrafugia out of Woburn, Massachusetts. The Transition, designed by a team of MIT-trained engineers, is a roadable aircraft featuring motorized wings that fold out in about 30 seconds. When on the road, the wings fold up so close to the body that you can fit the vehicle inside a standard, single-car garage. Yet it's still roomy enough for two people and their luggage, including such luxuries as skiing equipment or golf clubs.

To get airborne, the Transition uses a large rear propeller that will send the vehicle through the sky at 115MPH for a range of 460 miles. Best of all, it uses standard unleaded gasoline and gets a respectable 30MPG on the road.

Much like the Parajet SkyCar, this isn't just the pipe dream of an ambitious inventor "“ as you can see in the video below, the Transition made its first runway test flight on March 5, 2009, with more extensive flights to follow soon.

Unlike other roadable aircraft, if you want your own Transition, you can actually order one right now with a $10,000 down payment. The final purchase price will be in the neighborhood of $194,000 and the first owners should be able to take flight in 2011.

It's hard to say if we'll all one day fly to work or to pick up the kids from soccer practice. But if these modern designs are any indication, the long-held dream of a flying car in every garage might just become a reality.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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