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Flying car training school idea for Bermuda

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Plane sailing: Mark Jennings-Bates and Andre Voskuil outlined details of the new PAL-V flying car at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton

A school to train buyers how pilot a revolutionary flying car could open in Bermuda.

The makers of the PAL-V, which converts from a road-going vehicle to an aircraft, said that a flight school could take off in Bermuda due to its good climate and closeness to the east coast of the US.

Mark Jennings-Bates, vice-president for sales in North America for the Dutch-based manufacturers, said: “If we can arrange to have a flying school here, that’s a very big deal.

“And the clients we attract are very likely to favour Bermuda for learning to fly.

“We are discussing that with a few officials at this point and we hope at some point to announce we have a flying school here in Bermuda.”

Mr Jennings and PAL-V colleague Andre Voskuil last week visited the island to explore launching their flying car in Bermuda in tandem with the America’s Cup — which is expected to attract the kind of person who can afford the $400,000 to $600,000 price tag for the PAL-V, which converts in minutes between road use and an aircraft using the autogiro principle.

The two men unveiled the final design for the PAL-V at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club on Friday. The model improved from the prototype and features two engines instead of one. It was designed with assistance from experts who have worked for a major luxury Italian sports car maker.

Mr Jennings-Bates, who is based in Canada, said: “What we see here is a wonderful tourism attraction in Bermuda. It’s a smaller market, but it’s very close to the north east coast of the US.”

He added that he had also been in contact with Longtail Aviation, which already operates commercial aircraft from its airport base.

Mr Jennings-Bates said Longtail had expressed interest in talking to the firm about a flying school and “that they would be the natural people to talk to.”

He added: “It’s still very early stages — this is an exploratory trip, but I’m optimistic we can return and have some more discussions.”

Mr Jennings-Bates said the first model, the PAL-V Pioneer, a model with special luxury trim and paintwork and restricted to 90 examples, is set to go into production in 2018, with the more basic Liberty Sport version starting production after that.

He added: “PAL-V’s ultimate business is hundreds of vehicles a year and North America would account for 20-30 per cent of that. There would be 60 or 70 people on the eastern seaboard, quite possibly, who would require training.”

Mr Jennings-Bates said Bermudian potential customers had also expressed an interest in the vehicles.

He added: “There might be two or three sales here on the island. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we got some interest from corporate visitors as well.”

He said that, although there is a flying prototype, full-scale production will not start until 2018, so the launch will involve a flight simulator and a scale or full-scale model of the PAL-V.

The PAL-V representatives also met officials from the new Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority and they said had been told that certification in Europe and the US would be acceptable — opening the way for the two-seater machines to be based here.

The company has already set up flight-training school in Utah to qualify buyers on conventional German-built autogiros, which use the same principles as the PAL-V in flight mode.

In flight mode, an propeller at the rear moves the craft forward. Wind then generates lift on the helicopter-type rotor, which makes it airborne.

The flying car needs around 600 feet of ground for take-off. The rotor and tailplane fold away for road use. The tricycle arrangement of the wheels allows for a patented tilting system to be fitted so in car mode it can lean into corners like a motorbike.

Up and down: an idea that Bermuda could host a training school for flying car owners is being explored