Friday, July 16, 2010

The Mystery of the Moller 300

"THE PERSONAL AIRCRAFT - it's a little noisy, but it does fit in your garage. The Merlin 200 (above), which has recently been rechristened the Moller 300 (for its inventor, Paul S. Moller), is just about ready for takeoff after nearly $20 million worth of on-again off-again research. Mr. Moller, who is president of Moller International, a research and development company in Davis, Galif., has been experimenting with designs for VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft since the early 1960's. "Eventually," Mr. Moller says, "I think a large part of the population will own a vehicle like this. We're aiming it for consumer use. It was my objective in the beginning and it still is."

A descendant of the M200X Aerobot, a flying-saucerish thing that was designed and built to demonstrate the capability of the rotary engine that powers a vertical takeoff, the aerodynamically-shaped Moller 300 features six horizontally mounted engines that can redirect thrust for takeoff and landing. To be test-flown next spring, it will fly, Mr. Moller says, up to 400 miles per hour, though most economically at 225:"There shouldn't be much question about it. The technology has been tested. Every component of the vehide has been tested, and to this point it has all functioned satisfactorily."

Next year, Moller International will build a limited number of the craft for government certification processes and possible military applications. In the future, provided it can manufacture 1,500 a year, the company hopes to sell them for between $100,000 and $150,000 apiece. "It's simple enough to fly and can land in a compact area," Mr. Moller says. "It's not quite quiet enough to be used in residential areas, though it can be driven into residential areas. Officially, it's classified as a motorcycle."

- BRUCE WEBER, New York Times Magazine, October 16. 1988

(Note: click on photo for larger view)


Rummaging around in my meatspace files the other day, I came across this old newspaper article entitled "Fly Me to the Mall". The vehicle in the photograph was so cool (and note the various model aircraft on the wall), I was a little saddened to realize that, obviously, neither it nor I would be airborne any time too soon. I was also mystified - as in, so what happened to it? Doing a little web research I came across all sorts of interesting tidbits that I'll share with you here.

First off, there's Moller's website, which seems to have had all mention of the Moller 300 removed, though apparently Moller International is alive and well and still churning out "Skycars".

Secondly, supposedly, despite 40 years of R&D, the most recent prototype never really was able to hover more than 15 feet off the ground. For his information, plus a few photo's of Moller's "Disojet" (pictured below), similar to the afore-mentioned "Aeorobot", see here. Which begs for the question: just where has all Moller's R&D been taking place, i.e., misidentified any lately?

Then I found a montage of some groovy Moller-related videos here, one featuring our favorite flavor of any month, Michio Kaku!

And, lo & behold, there are a number of privately designed vehicles in the Jetson genre. See the links here.

But, we're not stopping yet. Get a load of this quote: “'People look at this and say Star Wars, but they've been building these since the 1950s,' Gibson said."... and then, head on over to this page.

Lastly, here's an online document: A formal claim of fraud against Moller International from the SEC web site.

Many more links can be found on Wiki under Moller Skycar M400.

Case solved?

And, for all you middle-aged geeks out there - a demographic which includes myself - here's a bit of nostalgia...

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