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Ken Wernicke's Aircar



WernickeAircar
In the mid-1990's Kenneth Wernicke received a lot of press coverage for his "Aircar". One year it made the covers of both Popular Mechanics and a special issue of Discover Magazine. As the president of Texas-based Sky Technologies he introduced the sleek vehicle, the kind of aircraft that you might expect to see in a James Bond movie.

The plane's specifications called for it to travel the highway at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour, and fly through the air at 200-400mph. The machine was small enough to fit into a standard sized parking space.

Wernicke's design sidestepped car-to-plane and plane-to-car transformations by using fractional aspect-ratio wings. The "aspect ratio" is the span of the airplane's wing divided by its standard mean chord. (The "chord" is the distance from leading-edge to trailing edge of the wing).

The wing span (in this case, the width of the vehicle,) was about eight and one-half feet. The chord was about thirteen feet. This gives an "Aspect Ratio" of roughly 2/3. For most general aviation aircraft the value of this ratio is a whole number, usually more than "five".

The use of a low aspect ratio gives you a narrow airplane, but it also gives you higher induced drag, a lower lift-to-drag ratio, and a less favourable glide angle. Wernicke compensated for these undesirable effects by using elaborate winglets on the end of the wings to boost aerodynamic efficiency. He was quoted as saying that wind tunnel tests and test flights with radio-controlled models showed he was 'on track". Apparently it was a lack of funding that ultimately stalled the Wernicke Aircar.

www.cessnawarbirds.com/articles/aircar.html


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