Inventors are sure cars can fly

"We want to show people what we can do," he says of his six-worker company. "Once we have enough of them out there, some history and some backing, we can go out and attract the $250 million we need."

Samson SkyBike.

Sam Bousfield came up with a futurist design for a three-wheeled flying motorcycle with wings that telescope so it won't be blown around on the highway.

Bousfield, whose Samson Motorworks is based near Sacramento, says engineering is underway and he hopes to have a half-scale, radio-controlled model flying in a few months.

He hopes to be able to produce a full-size kit version that could sell for about $50,000. At that price, "We feel we can sell at least 1,000 kits a year," he says.

Caravella CaraVellair.

After a decade working at Rocketdyne, a big aerospace company, Joseph Caravella had saved up more than $100,000 to be able to quit and pursue his dream: a flying three-wheel motorcycle.

The idea came to him after he got a speeding ticket driving from Indiana to Virginia while in college. He'd been clocked by an aircraft.

Caravella Aerospace's design calls for a lightweight single engine that powers both the motorcycle and a rear-mounted propeller from an enclosed cockpit. Aimed at commuters, he sees cost as a key advantage for the single-seat CaraVellair, as he's named it: He believes it can be produced as a kit for $50,000. He hopes to have a version flying by 2010.

Caravella spent months working in his garage and driveway with dad Joe Sr. to finish the non-flying prototype in time for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh aviation show earlier this month in Wisconsin. Terrafugia and Samson also were displayed at the show.

Moller Neuera.

While Moller's Skycar won attention, it has been grounded by cost. Moller International has moved to a less ambitious project designed to make sales, not just headlines.

Moller is working on a saucer-like, ground-effect vehicle. The M200X prototype, possibly to be marketed as the Neuera (pronounced: new era), would "fly" — actually hover at less than 10 feet — and travel for an hour at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. It is not a true plane and, the company says, would not require a pilot's license.

Moller general manager Bruce Calkins says the 17-worker company in Davis, Calif., hopes to build 40 for delivery starting in 2010 at up to $250,000 each. But he considers it just a way station on the way to producing a car that really flies. "Eventually, the common vision of having a flying car is going to be true."

Matt Novak, however, remains unconvinced. The host of Paleofuture.com, a blog that looks at past predictions of the future, says flying cars look even further away these days.

"We had this sort of optimism in the '50s and '60s, a feeling that things were inevitable because of technology. And flying cars were on the short list," Novak says. "I don't think we're going to have freeways in the sky any time soon."

Woodyard reported from Los Angeles and Carty from Detroit.

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