Despite the air corps of ambitious concepts trotted out by companies recently, the promise of flying cars always seems to be just over the horizon. But that might be a good thing, as this video showing the brief flight and violent crash of a combination dune buggy and ultralight aircraft aptly demonstrates.
Though the SkyRunner Light Sport bills itself as one of the “easiest and safest forms of flight,” the disastrous takeoff attempt is a good reminder of the inherent risks in departing terra firma. In the footage, recorded last Friday in Dubai, the flying UTV is seen accelerating down a grassy runway with two people aboard.
As its giant parachute unfurls, the pilot activates the rear-mounted propeller that allows the rig to take to the skies—and lo and behold, it lifts off straight and smooth.
Unfortunately, he isn’t able to gain enough altitude, and the SkyRunner smashes head-on into the side of a hanger at the end of the runway less than 20 seconds after takeoff. The collision is devastating, but SkyRunner CEO Stewart Hamel told Gizmodo Australia that the pilot and his passenger survived the crash—albeit with serious injuries.
A video of the wreckage shows that the vehicle’s steel and carbon fiber roll cage stayed mostly intact, which probably saved their lives.
Ultralight aircraft are among the most accessible forms of recreational flight, but the “Easy to Buy, Easy to Try, Easy to Fly” mantra on the company’s website belies the serious nature of any aerial enterprise. You can just hop in your car and drive anywhere with no prior planning, but there’s no such thing as a “casual” flight; while misjudging a load’s weight might make for bad gas mileage in a regular car, doing so in a flying car could be a fatal mistake.
With a curb weight of about 1,320 pounds, seating for two, and a max takeoff weight of 1,800 pounds, the SkyRunner has a relatively slim margin for safe operation.
Starting at $139,000, the SkyRunner is an FAA-certified aircraft that requires a sport pilot license to operate. It’s powered by a 115 or 160 horsepower Rotax airplane engine, and it can soar up to 10,000 feet in the air and cruise at nearly 50 mph for over 130 miles.