2/29/12

Monte Copter - Day of the Tri-Phibs.

Flying car update now, from 1961. The Monte-Copter was another kooky attempt at a flying car boat. I love the plastic dome over the cabin (or known in laymen's terms "the people hole"). I wish bubble domes had caught on. I wish my car had a bubble dome. I wish the rest of humanity would stop laughing at those of use who like bubble domes. Also, please stop throwing rotten vegetables at us bubble dome lovers. We used to be like you. We're not so different. Why so many anti-domites?

Anyway, the Monte-Copter ran on a turbine. It blew air to turn the rotor and blew air out the back to make it move. Whether on land, water, or getting honked at in an intersection, it relied on the same stream of air to do everything.

This kept the mechanicals very simple. No transmission or gears or metal linkages to disengage the rotor or drive wheels. It just had a system of valves and ducts inside it that redirected the air from the turbine to turn the blades or blow out the back for propulsion. This is a pretty good way to keep things light, and with few moving parts.

However, the challenge that is still... uuh.... challenging designers is the "car" part of the plane/car/boat vehicle. Governments have a lot of laws and requirements to make a car street legal. This article doesn't say whether the Monte-Copter is street legal or not. I'm not familiar with NHTSA regulations from 1961 But I bet it would have a hard time meeting regulations here in The Future.

The article talks about the compact size of the Monte-Copter, but never mentions what you do with the huge rotor when you're in "car mode". Supposedly, the vehicle is fifteen feet long, but the rotor looks way longer.

Then there's the noise generated by a gas turbine. Here's a FaceTube video of a model train powered by a gas turbine engine. Jump to 11:54  when the guy shuts the hell up and turns the thing on. Frikkin' loud. Can you silence a turbine engine like you can with an internal combustion engine? Imagine how loud the Monte-Copter was.

Then there's speed. The Monte-Copter had a top land speed of 40 mph. And since it's motivated purely by jet thrust, it would have been slow to get going from a dead stop. Air is squishy, and pushing against air takes a while to build up speed.. Wheels are much quicker off the line. Top Gear once raced a very fast car against a very fast jet fighter. Ultimately the plane was faster, but right at the start, the car just walked away from the plane. Scroll to 6:20 to see the start of the race.



Imagine trying to use the Monte-Copter as a car, even for a special trip from the lake to your house or whatever. At every stop light people would be flipping you off and honking. Then, some more finger honking on the highway because you can only do 40 and you're causing a traffic jam. Your huge rotor would probably be hitting things and causing clearance problems when you turn corners or drive through a town. If you want to fly later on in the day, you'd be carrying the wing extensions (required for flight)... where? In a trailer? The vehicle's too wide to use on a road (almost 11 feet wide) with the wings on. Even if it's not your daily driver, the Monte Copter would be almost useless on the road.

As an engineering demonstration, the Monte-Copter was a job well done. As an attempt to solve a transportation problem, it was silly. Nice dome, though!

Best of all, Science and Mechanics chose to ignore the Monte-Copter's real name in the headline of the article. They called it the Drive-and-Fly Tri-Phib. At last! A name as complicated as the machine.

Other Science and Mechanics editorial triumphs:

-"Enjoy Color Tele-Vision broadcasts with new Chroma-Omni-Tele-Vid-U-Tron!"

-"Safety Advancement in Oven Mitts! Manu-Thermo-Grab-O-Nutri-Glove!"

-"Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies with Intra-Fem-O-Baby Nega-Hump-Itol!"

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4 comments:

MrsBug said...

At least with the Monte-Car, you wouldn't have to worry about people trying to wash your windshield for you at stop lights. And bicyclists might have some issues with it on narrow roads.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Except that one guy with the curved squeegee. He's never made a dime, and when he sees you coming in your Monte-Copter, he knows his ship has come in. You'll never be rid of him

Thanks for commenting, Mrs. B!

[-Mgmt.]

Steven Satak said...

I think it was a failure as a Tri-phibian. But that misses the point completely. Anyone buying it certainly did not care about its ability as a car - or a boat, for that matter. The main idea was that a fellow with access to a modest sum of money (although $25,000 was a king's ransom back in the day) could, without trouble, acquire a helicopter that could land damn near anywhere and at least taxi to a convenient stowage area.

Put in that light, the machine was a success. The idea failed because manufactured machines were rapidly outstripping this 'copter's capacity even as it went through major revisions. And the dream of a skycar was fading as the generation that was building fortunes after WWII - the generation that won the war and was most familiar with aircraft due to service - began to see the problems associated with every person having a personal flying machine.

In other words, it was too generalized and had too low a performance for military application, and civilians were not necessarily going to be happy with learning to fly a helicopter. It was a solution looking for a problem, and never found one outside the pages of the ever-dreaming Popular Science/Mechanics magazines.

I don't know what the specs are for operating ceiling, etc, but I shudder to think of trying to auto-rotate this baby after engine failure - in any kind of weather other than perfect. Bailing out was not an option. Did the designer ever consider that in all the years he sold stocks to gullible people? Obviously, the stockholders never did.

I wonder how many of these were sold? Thanks for posting this - I saw an ad for it in the '62 World's Fair Guide Book.

Steve

Bharat Bharwad said...

Hi to all
I am not a aviation guy but I would love to know how to find more information on this aircraft technology and if one wants to bring it to a production table where to start from. Dose it auto rotate like Gyroplane? In the Avnet of engine failure.. Please email me if you know who owned the write to manufacture. Microlightindia@gmail.com. Thanks for you help.

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