Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where's Your Flying Car?

Where's Your Flying Car? In the Driveway by Next Year By: Rebecca Kutzer-Rice |
Terrafugia's "roadable aircrafts," which can zoom around clouds as easily as they zoom around the block, are set to take off late next year.

The flying car, an ultimate emblem of the future, sounds like the fantasy of The Jetsons or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But that fantasy might be driving around your neighborhood sometime soon. Terrafugia, a company that manufactures "roadable aircrafts," has just received an FAA weight regulation exemption and plans to have its aircraft in the skies—and on the roads—in about 18 months.

The innovative aircraft can cruise at speeds up to 115 mph (source: Terrafugia).

Terrafugia, Latin for "escape from the Earth," was founded by MIT grads, all of whom are engineers as well as pilots. The company's Transition® vehicle is a hybrid between an airplane and an automobile. With its automated electromechanical foldable wings, the aircraft can safely fly in the air but also drive on streets and fit into a parking spot or household garage. While other aircraft use expensive aviation or jet fuel, the Transition uses regular gasoline. It even boasts gas mileage of 30 mpg—a great rate even for a car without wings.

Unlike other aircraft, the Transition runs on regular gasoline, which saves money and is incredibly convenient (source: Terrafugia).

In addition to being an environmentally friendly craft, the Transition also has excellent safety features, such as a full vehicle parachute. The aircraft does not meet standard regulations for Light Sport Aircrafts because its excellent road safety additions, like airbags and a safety cage, were weighing it down. The FAA, however, recently granted the vehicle an exemption.

"The 110-pound weight exemption granted [to] the Transition by the FAA is instrumental in meeting our safety goals for the Transition," Richard Gersh, vice president of business development for Terrafugia, told Smarter Technology in an e-mail.

The innovators at Terrafugia imagine that, in inclement flying conditions, a pilot could land and drive home, rather than risking air travel. The Transition will be especially convenient for pilots who must rely on rental cars and other transportation once they arrive at their destinations. In such circumstances, they will save time and money by just folding up the wings and driving away. Pilots will also save by keeping aircraft in their own driveways, rather than renting hangers.

To operate, the aircraft requires a sport pilot's license, as well as a valid driver's license. It is expected to be available late next year for $164,000, and customers can place orders on the company's Website.

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