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Captivans travel to Wisconsin for debut of roadable airplane

By Staff | Aug 5, 2010

Phill Urion, Trey Johnson and Stella Farwell pose for a picture with the PD-1.

Last week, Captivans Stella Farwell and Phill Urion travelled to Oshkosh, Wis. for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Oshkosh — also known among aviation enthusiasts as “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” — to watch Farwell’s son Trey Johnson introduce his PlaneDriven aircraft, the PD-1.

This year’s exposition attracted 500,000 people from all over the world and 10,000 airplanes of all kinds.

“It was wild. There were waves of people and there was always somebody stopping by to ask questions and look at the PD-1. It was the buzz of the airshow,” Farwell said.

Johnson has been in aviation for about 25 years, many of which were spent providing airplanes and pilots for skydivers.

Three years ago, Johnson built his first kit plane, an RV-7, and attached it to amphibious floats. His prize-winning creation was a big hit at the Oshkosh event.

The PD-1 in road mode.

“When he was doing it, a lot of people were rolling their eyes and saying it would never work — but it worked perfectly and the person who owns it now absolutely loves it,” Farwell said.

The PD-1, a modified Glasair Sportsman, was Johnson’s next endeavor.

The concept is an old one in aviation, but until now, no one has created a practical roadable airplane. Johnson’s plane converts into a three-wheel road vehicle and has a Washington state vehicle license.

The plane already had wings that fold back and Johnson designed a rail system that moves the plane’s rear wheels and center of gravity back for road stability. He incorporated a separate motor to drive the wheels in road mode and added headlights, rear lights, turn signals and brakes, making the PD-1 completely street legal.

Farwell said that Johnson has been curious about roadable aircraft since he saw Molt Taylor’s “Aerocar” at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. when he was a child.

“He remembered seeing that and he figured there had to be a way to do it that was practical.”

Farwell said that over the course of aviation history, many people have tried to make a practical roadable airplane, but none had ever gone beyond the experimental market.

Until now.

In the future, Johnson plans market the air-to-road conversion kit he invented for the PD-1.

“It’s exciting. I’m a very proud mom,” Farwell said.

For videos and more information on the PD-1, go to PlaneDriven.com.