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Paul Moller talks about his M400 Skycar in November 2011 at the Davis warehouse and museum that house his inventions. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Local News

Fundraising effort may produce first manned demonstration of Skycar

By From page A1 | November 07, 2013

Paul Moller, whose Davis company is developing a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, is offering a “chance to make aviation history” to supporters by allowing them to participate in test flights of his prototype aircraft.

It’s one of the potential perks for donating to the fundraising campaign that Moller International is launching on the website Indiegogo, for which Moller announced plans on Tuesday. His company is seeking $958,000 in financial backing through the effort.

Those who donate $5,000 will earn an opportunity to fly in the Skycar; those who give $15,000 could actually pilot it (pending clearance by the Federal Aviation Administration).

There are only a handful of pilots in the world with flight time in powered-lift aircraft of any type, Moller explained, and there are none with any experience in powered-lift aircraft of this type.

Developing the Skycar — Moller International’s futuristic vertical takeoff and landing aircraft — has been a 30-year-long labor of love for Moller. The company acquired the assets of the Outboard Marine Corp. two years after its formation, allowing it to produce and sell its own Rotapower rotary engine through a partner company.

Moller International issued a news release on Friday reporting that its signature engine reached a milestone in its horsepower output. Moller said the Indiegogo funds would be used specifically for installation of the new, higher-power Rotapower engines in time for its first free flight with a pilot aboard.

Thus far, the Skycar has performed only a couple of low-flying and tethered demonstrations. In 1989, the company did a controlled flight of another vehicle model, the disc-shaped Neuera volantor, at its Davis headquarters at 1222 Research Park Drive.

To help accrue the funds required to finalize the Skycar’s modifications and get it off the ground, Moller said three separate business entities have committed to matching a portion of funds raised out of the $958,000 goal.

“We’ve seen crowdfunding being used for a variety of unique reasons,” he added. “But this is the first time that the public will be able to participate in the test and historic first flight of a prototype aircraft. We’re making history together — our supporters, our sponsors and us.”

The crowdfunding effort will continue until Jan. 4. The progress of the campaign, which brought in approximately $5,000 the first day, can be tracked at indiegogo.com/projects/actually-fly-the-m400x-skycar-into-history.

If the campaign is successful, Moller is expecting the test flight to take place next June. The company already has named Ed De Reyes as the chief test pilot. The Los Angeles resident has experience in flight and ground testing of aircraft.

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

Brett Johnson

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