In a past post, we discussed today’s flying cars, and having them at this time seemed like a revelation. However, the idea of actually building a flying car was not originated by companies like Terrafugia, AeroMobil, and Moller International, but has instead been in the imaginations of engineers and inventors for a long time. However, attempts made in the past to allow people to drive above roads have often ended in failure, much like that of the AVE Mizar, a flying Ford Pinto that was designed in the early Seventies.
Image Author: Doug Duncan
One of the only two models of the AVE Mizar surely does not exist today, and its demise is related to the end of the entire project. Henry Smolinski and Hal Blake founded the car/plane manufacturing company, AVE (Advanced Vehicle Engineers), with the primary objective of building and mass-producing a flying car. Using a Ford Pinto and part of a Cessna Skymaster, they structurally accomplished their goal, creating a vehicle that ideally could be driven to the airport and then attached with wings, a tailfin, and a rear engine, all of which could be operated from attachments located inside the car.
The Flying Pinto wasn’t just some fringe piece of technology, however. It actually got great publicity, even after an incident in early 1973 involving a failed right ring strut mounting attachment should have foreshadowed its ultimate fate. Despite this, it gained Galpin Ford in California as a national distributor. Its price would have been relatively high, ranging from $18,300 to $28,058, depending on the exact model of the flying car. When adjusting for inflation, this amounts to a range of $97,821 to $149,981, certainly not something that would be in the budget of the common person.
It is rumored that a huge piece of exposure for the AVE Mizar was to occur in 1974, when the Flying Pinto would be seen on the big screen in the Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. It was to make its appearance as the titular villain of the film, Scaramanga, and his henchman Nick Nack were to use the Mizar to escape from Bond. This was to use actual footage of the flying car, and would surely have shown off the 130 mph cruising speed and possibly even some of the 1,000-mile range of the car/plane.
If it had been ten years later in time, Smolinski would never have used a Pinto as the base for his flying car. In the late 70s, because of the construction of its rear bumper, several incidents of a Pinto catching on fire from a rear-end collision had occurred. However, the faulty construction of the car model was not responsible for the demise of the AVE Mizar project. While the lightweight Pinto was actually ideal for the model, the Mizar used was overall too heavy and contained many loose parts. On September 11, 1973, with his main test pilot unavailable, Smolinski decided to test it, with Blake as the pilot. Due to the issues with the Mizar, during flight it struck a tree and crashed into a pickup truck, setting it ablaze and killing the two men almost instantly. This marked the end of both AVE and the Mizar. In 1974, Scaramanga had to escape Bond with the use of a miniature model of an AMC Matador Coupe, not a real airborne car.
This event, besides being a failure and a tragedy, demonstrates much about the innovation of technology and standardized practices. Different events in industry history have often ended in complete failure, and have demonstrated issues that need to be better managed by workers or manufacturers. Today, standards for automotive and aerospace industries prevent fatal accidents from occurring during the testing and manufacturing of vehicles and aircrafts. With these, the only problem with designing current and future flying cars is actually figuring out how to get and keep them in the air.