To Timbuktu by flying car: it sounds the most unlikely journey on earth; a sci-fi voyage from the pages of Jules Verne. But this is no fantasy. The car really flies. And the journey will become reality early in the new year when two explorers set off from London in a propeller-powered dune buggy heading for the Sahara.
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The seed of this improbable adventure was sown four years ago when Gilo Cardozo, a paramotor manufacturer, had a eureka moment. For those not familiar with paramotors, picture a parachutist with a giant industrial fan strapped to his back, which provides forward motion and boosts lift for the parachute - or wing - during takeoff. Cardozo’s brainwave was to attach a car to the fan.
“I started making a paramotor on wheels that you sit on and take off and it suddenly occurred to me, ‘Why not just have a car that does everything?’” recalls Cardozo, whose Wiltshire-based company Parajet built the paramotor that the adventurer Bear Grylls used to fly near Everest last year.
A workable flying car has been the inventors’ holy grail for half a century, but the reality has remained elusive. Just ask Paul Moller, the Canadian engineer whose four-seater Skycar is still at the prototype stage after 40 years and more than $150 million of development.
Cardozo, a self-taught engineer with a tiny fraction of that budget, thinks he may finally have cracked it. “I’ve been dreaming about making flying cars since I was a boy,” he says, “thinking about all the ways it could be done and seeing how all the other people in the world have done it wrong.