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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Adventurers travel from London to Timbuktu in flying car

A team of adventurers has launched an expedition to travel from London to Timbuktu by flying car.

A team of British Adventurers are about to begin a journey from London to Timbuktu in the world's first road legal bio-fuelled flying car. ;

The group, led by Neil Laughton, will make the 6,000km (3,600-mile) journey by land and air in the Parajet Skycar, effectively a dune buggy with a fan motor and paragliding wing attached.

After taking off from London, the expedition will travel through France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mali, and aims to reach Timbuktu on February 20.

The plan is to drive the Skycar where there are roads, and fly over the Straits of Gibraltar, the Atlas mountains in Morocco and the trackless wastes of the Empty Quarter of the Sahara.

A supporting group of experienced adventurers will follow the Skycar on the ground in all-terrain vehicles and on motorbikes.

The vehicle was designed by engineer Giles Cardozo in just 18 months, and the expedition team say it is the "world's first road legal biofuelled flying car".

The powerful fan propels the car forward and the "ParaWing" can give enough lift to allow the Skycar to take off from any field or airstrip 200m or more in length.

Once airborne, the pilot steers by using cables to alter the wing's shape, and should the engine fail, the Skycar would float gently to the ground, the descent slowed by the wing.

The Skycar can change from ground to flying mode in just three minutes, can reach altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, and has a normal cruising height of 2,000-3,000 feet.

On the ground the car has a range of 400km (240 miles), top speed of 180 km/h (108mph) and independent four-wheel suspension means it can cope with the toughest terrain.

Flying car facts:

Flying cars are the stuff of schoolboys' dreams, but self-taught engineer and inventor Giles Cardozo has made them reality with the Skycar.

As far back as the 1960s engineers were testing folding wings for cars to allow them to take to the air.

Mr Cardozo, the founder of Wiltshire-based firm Parajet, developed his design over 18 months using new flexible wing technology.

While on the ground, the Skycar runs off a biofuel-powered engine capable of taking it from 0-100km/h (60mph) in 4.5 seconds with a top speed of 180 km/h (108mph).

Rear-wheel drive and independent four-wheel suspension make it suitable for tough terrain - the expedition team say it is capable of "sports and rally car performance on or off the road".

Conversion to flight mode takes just three minutes - the parafoil wing folds into the boot of the car.

A powerful fan mounted on the rear of the car propels it to the take-off speed of 60 km/h (36mph) and the Skycar can reach 110 km/h (66mph) once airborne.

Cruising at 2,000 - 3,000 feet, the Skycar has a flying range of 300km (180 miles) and can reach a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet.

The engineers say it should be easier and safer to fly than any other aircraft as it has no pitch control - the pilot cannot make the nose dip or rise, making it impossible to stall or dive.

If the engine cuts out, the designers say, the pilot would be able to glide gently to the ground, the descent slowed by the parafoil.

In the event of the wing failing completely, a second reserve parachute can be deployed.