Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) - In recent years, lots of attention has been placed on vehicles that can take-off and land vertically. Vertical take-off and landing is a distinct flight characteristic and it is very useful in certain situations. These situations include emergency, surveillance, rescue, and other missions in which the landing zone is confined or in which slow speed/hover is required. There is a huge penalty to VTOL operation in terms of cost, payload, and complexity. And while it has been the dream of most pilots to takeoff vertically and fly away, the fact is there are very few places you have permission to land with dangerous 100+ mph winds being stirred up. General aviation has spent, and is continuing to spend, a great deal of money to maintain 17,000+ airports with long runways and radar systems around the US for conventional aircraft. It is usually possible to find a local or regional airport within 50-100 miles from any location in the US from which to takeoff.
However, the early search for a personal roadable aircraft focused on VTOL designs at first. This was due to the fact that founder,Mitchell LaBiche worked in the VTOL industry for nearly ten years, while working on programs such as the "fly-by-wire" Advanced Apache program and other civilian helicopter and auto-giro designs. A wide variety of designs were tried ranging from helicopters withfolding blades to cars with shrouded rotors buried in the vehicle. Regardless of the configuration, the same problems always came up when trying to package a VTOL vehicle for personal roadable use.
LaBiche Automotive Marketing Evaluation
The break through came when we asked a couple of key questions.
• "OK. Some pretty smart people have built cars in the past that could fly but they didn't sell.So, what kind of vehicle do customers want to buy?" LaBiche Automotive launched an extensive marketing and questionnaire evaluation lasting several years. From this evaluation, it was determined that the owners would really prefer to drive everywhere possible (if they could only "magically" shorten the travel time). The majority (95.7%) of the final destinations potential owners wanted to go was only available by driving. In other words, a vertical take-off & landing vehicle would NOT buy you any additional advantage in the majority of the final destinations… you still have to drive to the final location. And a roadable aircraft would be severely comprised in drivability, nearly eliminating any marketing edge it might have over existing aircraft. The survey also said that the potential customers would be using their vehicle as a car approximately 85% (±5%) of the time. The appearance in ground mode is extremely important. Ground performance is as important to them as the flying performance. And the criterion for ground performance is quite high, such as today's luxury and sports cars.
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