First of all, lets address the vertical takeoff/landing vehicle (VTOL). In recent years, lots of attention has been placed on vehicles that can take-off and land vertically. Vertical take-off and landing is a distinct flight characteristic and it is very useful in certain situations. These situations include emergency, surveillance, rescue, and other missions in which the landing zone is confined or in which slow speed/hover is required. There is a huge penalty to VTOL operation in terms of cost, payload, and complexity. And while it has been the dream of most pilots to takeoff vertically and fly away, the fact is there are very few places you have permission to land with 200+ mph winds being stirred up. General aviation has spent, and is continuing to spend, a great deal of money ($ billions) to maintain 17,000+ airports with long runways and radar systems around the US for conventional aircraft. Why would you not take advantage of this fact? At this time there is very little market for a personal vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (other than helicopters). That doesnt mean that the story will stay this way forever. However, you dont build a vehicle and hope that the FAA will decide to spend billions of dollars to support you with personal vertiports. You may be waiting a long time!
From the LaBiche Aerospace marketing and questionnaire evaluation, it was determined early on that the owners would really prefer to drive everywhere possible (if they could only magically shorten the travel time). The majority (95.7%) of the final destinations owners wanted to go were ONLY available by driving. On the flip side, 1.8% of the final destinations were only available to vertical takeoff and landing vehicles. The remaining 2.5% are available to driving and VTOL. In other words, a vertical take-off & landing vehicle would NOT buy you any additional advantage in the majority of the final destinations; you still have to drive to the final location. The survey also said that the owners would be using their vehicle as a car approximately 85% (±5%) of the time. Ground performance is as important to them as the flying performance. And the criterion for ground performance is quite high, such as todays luxury and sports cars.
Lets look at the logic for making a decision for the vehicle final configuration by evaluating travel from Point A to Point B.
OPTION 1 (Conventional Take-Off /Driving Destination
OPTION 2 (VTOL /Driving Destination Availability
OPTION 3 (VTOL/Driving Destination Availability
OPTION 4 (VTOL Only Destination Availability 3.2%)
From the information above, one would get the idea that a VTOL vehicle that had good ground performance is the way to go. However, having both good ground performance and VTOL capability would require at least two power plants and/or gearing with a large penalty in payload, cost and complexity. In short, good ground performance is necessary while VTOL is just desired. Moreover, packaging VTOL for public marketing is very difficult in the aesthetics department.
Lets compare the performance of the vehicles that can fly and drive.
In the works: