Of experimental aircraft and the future of transportation

I was rifling through my Flickr last night and came across a collection of photos I took during a visit to the EAA museum in Oshkosh, WI earlier this year. I’ve been a huge fan of experimental aircraft since my teens when I did a lot of radio-controlled model aircraft building and flying. The entire concept of experimental aircraft is inspiring because it takes the overwhelmingly cost-prohibitive world of civil aviation and puts it within the reach of the clever and mechanically handy. It makes an item (a small airplane) cost as little as a decent sports car instead of a small house. What’s more, these kit-built craft outperform their factory-built cousins in speed, economy and aerobatic performance.

This has me thinking. Why hasn’t this happened with cars? I know there’s a vibrant kit car community, but the majority of their time seems spent building Shelby Cobra replicas or other poor man’s super cars. Why isn’t there a kit car equivalent to the LongEZ? Where is that simple, economic, interesting vehicle that almost anybody could screw together and pilot? Maybe the Streetliner is that vehicle. Maybe this project, and others like it, can spur a small revolution in transportation where instead of big, heavy boxes of steel, some of us zip around in lightweight composite vehicles that get us back and forth to work. I like the sound of that. Who’s with me?

6 thoughts on “Of experimental aircraft and the future of transportation”

  1. I’d like to see more of it too. I just read their posting about safety and it made me think about the Ultralight standards, which are as sensible as they are clever. They consist of an empty weight limit, a gross weight limit, and a wing loading limit. Those three factors conspire to keep all ultralights reasonable. You can’t cram it full of power because it’ll weight to much and your wing loading will be too high. You can’t just make the wings bigger to drop the wing loading because then your gross weight will be too high. A similar set of minimalist guidelines for homebuilt cars could be really useful. Even simply copying existing standards, such as the SCAA roll-cage standards, then combining that with a series of gross vehicle weight categories with corresponding engine displacement/horsepower limits.

    If there were some ground rules within which to work, kit makers and home builders alike could start building cars and evolving the segment.

  2. I love the idea that you’re willing to take on such a task and commit to it over the long haul. I’ve always entertained the idea of building a vehicle, such as streetliner, but the demands of work etc. have always gotten in the way. I’ve read a portion (but not all) of your ideas and it seems like you have accomplished much. You might find this site interesting; http://www.microcarmuseum.com. I’m not sure if I saw it on MF or not, so you may already be familiar with it. One way or the other, good luck with the project!!

    1. Thanks Bob!

      This little project hasn’t gotten a lot of my attention lately, as I’m still doing a lot of learning through other projects (motorcycles mostly) that will help prepare me to really take this on. In 2012, Tech Shop is supposed to open here in the Twin Cities. When it does, I expect work on the Streetliner will take off in earnest. In the meantime, this little project is always percolating in the back of my mind.

  3. I believe that the kit car approach and business model that follows the ultralight approach is the most sensible one that there is. It allows handy people with a shop to construct the and modify and customize their own vehicles, and it limits the legal liabilities of the manufacturer. It brings the cost down and has numerous other benefits as well. Count me in and add me to your mailing list!

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