After making an appearance at the Geneva International Motor Show in March, the Pal-V Liberty will be on display at the Farnborough International Airshow in England later this month, from July 16 through 22. The vehicle is equally suited to either venue, because it’s a flying car—the world’s first production model flying car, according to Pal-V, the Dutch company that has been developing it since 2001. More specifically, the Liberty is a three-wheeled automobile that converts into a two-seat gyroplane.
If all goes as planned, the Liberty will be cleared for takeoff by U.S. and international aviation and transportation authorities by 2020, and deliveries will begin shortly thereafter. As is often the case with new aircraft, the certification date has been pushed back at least a couple times. In early 2017, when Robb Report reported that Pal-V officially had begun accepting orders and deposits for the Liberty in the North American market, the company was planning to complete the certification process by the end of this year. However, by the time of the Geneva show, Pal-V had tempered its expectations and was saying that the Liberty would be certified in 2019. Between March and July, the expected date for certification was moved back one more year.
The company continues to accept orders for the Liberty, which is available in two models: the fully loaded Liberty Pioneer Edition and the base model Liberty Sport. The estimated price of the Pioneer Edition is about $600,000, and it’s roughly $400,000 for the Sport. Pal-V plans to build only 90 examples of the Pioneer Edition and sell only 25 in the North American market. Reserving a Liberty requires a non-refundable deposit of $25,000 for the Pioneer and $10,000 for the Sport. (Pal-V says it will refund the deposits if the Liberty fails to receive certification.)
Both Liberty models will have a maximum speed of just under 100 mph in driving mode and a zero-to-60-mph time of less than 9 seconds. In flying mode, both will have a high cruising speed of nearly 100 mph and a range of about 250 miles with two people aboard and 310 miles with just a pilot. Pal-V recommends a runway—paved or level grass—of at least 900 feet for takeoff and a 100-foot strip for landing.
It’s perhaps fitting that the world’s first production flying car is a gyroplane—an unusual aircraft design that harkens back to the earliest days of powered flight and, while never completely disappearing, has always lived on the edge of mainstream aviation. Unlike a helicopter, a gyroplane’s blades are not powered by a motor; instead, they spin freely and generate lift as a result of their forward motion through the air. The vehicle’s forward thrust is provided by a separate motor and propeller, more akin to a fixed-wing airplane. That’s why the Liberty needs 900 feet to take off; it cannot rise vertically like a conventional helicopter. But one of the primary advantages of the design is a much lower stall speed and easier handling.
The Liberty converts from an automobile into a gyroplane in about 10 minutes—the amount of time it takes to unfold the blades, which are bundled on the roof when the vehicle is in driving mode.
To operate the Liberty in the United States, you’ll need a standard driver’s license and a gyroplane license. The latter requires 30 to 40 hours of training. The company plans to offer flying lessons at its Pal-V FlyDrive Academy locations, one of which will be located in Florida.