Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Want to buy a plane that won't break the bank? You need a 'caroplane'

By Kieron Monks, for CNN
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Cost-cutting is driving recreational aircraft forward. The <a href='http://www.flyskyrunner.com/#tiptop' target='_blank'>SkyRunner</a> (pictured) stands for affordability and adventure, a tantalizing ride for any adrenalin junky. Cost-cutting is driving recreational aircraft forward. The SkyRunner (pictured) stands for affordability and adventure, a tantalizing ride for any adrenalin junky.
HIDE CAPTION
Affordable flight
Off-road
Cheap flight
Paraglider
Safety first
Stylish flight
Sleek design
Bright future
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Car-plane hybrid looks to make aviation affordable amidst private jet slump
  • SkyRunner debuts at Farnborough this week with price tag of $80,000
  • Regulations to be resolved before caroplane really takes off

Editor's note: The 49th Farnborough International Airshow takes place in Hampshire, England between 14-20 July 2014. Considered one of the biggest aviation events in the world, CNN will be there talking to all the big industry names.

(CNN) -- To wander the Farnborough airfield during trade show week is to be dwarfed by the big beasts of global aviation, from the epic Dreamliners to the needle-sharp fighter jets, and all for sale.

But with even the cheapest models costing many millions of dollars, is there any prospect that owning an aircraft could follow computers and cars in becoming affordable to the masses?

Commercial aviation in the 21st century
100 years of commercial aviation
Can solar power fuel future flight?

The figures indicate otherwise. Private jet sales slowed to a crawl following the global recession, falling 3.4% to 682 in 2012 in the U.S. and rising just 0.9% the following year.

Even this minor growth has been concentrated at the top end of the market, with sales contracting toward the lower end. Bombardier airline President Eric Martel was candid about the prospect of an upturn, saying Monday: "It's no secret the light segment has been difficult over the last couple of years."

An enthusiast could still fulfill their dream through a fixed kit plane, or a discontinued antique. But looking ahead, their best bet might be the emerging field of the car-plane hybrid.

This week at the Farnborough International Airshow, Parajet is showcasing the SkyRunner to potential aviation distributors with a price tag of $80,000.

The design combines an all-terrain vehicle with a light sport aircraft capable of soaring 15,000 feet at a speed of 55mph, with a flying time of three hours.

Powered by an innovative low-carbon petrol engine, the hybrid is presented as "the next generation of recreational aircraft...designed primarily to make aviation easily accessible and fun."

The vehicle has undergone testing over five years, including a voyage from London to Timbuktu flown by inventor Gilo Cardozo. It builds on the motor design of the company's signature product, a propeller-powered jetpack already established on the market.

Read: Space Tourists to blast off from UK by 2018

Parajet manager Tom Prideaux-Brune believes the new concept is ready and is now being fine tuned for specific markets.

"We have built it and proved it works so now we can take it forward to manufacturing. We can launch when we have the distributors."

Classified as a light aircraft, SkyRunner must overcome regulatory hurdles.

"It's about planning and registering it, so that the authorities know who is operating it and has had sufficient training. The Civil Aviation Authority has been very positive."

Priced at $80k, this all terrain vehicle can soar up to 15,000 feet in the air with its low carbon petrol engine.
Courtesy of SkyRunner

Once a fantasy only seen in films like "Back to the Future," the 'caroplane' has become an increasingly robust reality in recent years.

The Terrafugia also made its air show debut recently and is set for sales next year. New competitors are also emerging.

The existing market for private planes is "not dynamic or growing", says Charles Alcock, Editor-in-Chief of Aviation International News, suggesting there could be an opportunity for innovators to steal a march, as occurred before the crash.

"A decade earlier we saw new designs that made planes significantly more affordable...very light jets more like sports cars with wings that bought prices down from $75 million to $1 million. It seemed they might take off before the recession."

Alcock highlights that the initial outlay can pale beside other costs such as training, licenses and parking.

He adds that regulations could derail the hybrid models: "You have to go a long way to convince the authorities."

So hardly a cloudless sky. But if the SkyRunner design is not yet cleared for take off, it provides an exciting and plausible glimpse of a future of aircraft ownership we can all aspire to.

Read: What you need to know about Farnborough Airshow 2014

Read: Farnborough airshow through the years

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Farnborough Airshow
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
CNN takes a look at the new car-plane hybrid that brings affordable recreational air travel to the masses with hopes of creating alternative market for private aircraft.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 2136 GMT (0536 HKT)
Cathay Pacific was named the world's best airline at an awards ceremony at the Farnborough International Airshow Tuesday.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Remarkable vintage aircraft mark 100 years of aviation with The Great War Display Team at Farnborough Airshow this July. Nine of five different types of aircraft from World War I will be on display this year.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Farnborough Air shows have a long history.
For nearly half a century, this small town in Hampshire, England has demonstrated a commitment to groundbreaking plane design with its longtime history of aircraft innovation.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0830 GMT (1630 HKT)
Astonishingly, the first ever aircraft took the skies in 1914. Since then, planes have taken on a wealth of gravity deifying forms, from the Flying Boat to the 'SuperJumbo' Jet.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Britain has stolen a march in the space race with plans for the world's first spaceport outside the U.S., which is hoping to be operational by 2018.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Airline routes have connected the world in unimaginable ways, however, these paths also indicate the financial climates and emerging markets of the areas they connect.
June 4, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
The DC-3 airline is known for its sturdy construction, with hundreds in flight 80 years on from its initial take off. Find out why this legendary model remains hugely popular.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
The Middle East is taking hold of the private jet market, showing their love for luxury flight experiences and premium quality design.
ADVERTISEMENT