Terrafugia Transition ‘Flying Car’ Gets Go-ahead From US Air Authorities

The Terrafugia Transition, a light aircraft that can convert into a road-legal automobile, is to go into production after being given a special weight exemption by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The Terrafugia Transition after being pulled out of the hangar. Photo: Terrafugia

The Terrafugia Transition, closest thing to a flying car/aircraft hybrid yet built, has received a unique exemption from the US government allowing production models to be 110 pounds heavier than a normal “light sport aircraft”. This will permit the car/plane combo to satisfy safety requirements when driving on roads, according to The Daily Telegraph (UK).

First Flight View from chase plane. Photo: Terrafugia

The Transition was designed as a “light sport” aircraft, the smallest kind of private aeroplane under FAA classification, with a maximum weight of 1,320lb. But the manufacturers found it impossible to fit the safety features – airbags, crumple zones and roll cage, for instance – that are required for road vehicles into that weight.

Pre-dawn preparations at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York. Photo: Terrafugia

Uniquely, however, the FAA has granted the Transition an exemption – allowing it to be classified as a light sport aircraft despite being 120lb over the limit. Light sport aircraft licences require just 20 hours’ flying time, making them much easier to obtain than full private licences.

The Transition and Chase Plane during May 2009 Testing. Photo: Terrafugia

The 2-seater Terrafugia Transition can use its front-wheel drive on roads at ordinary highway speeds, with wings folded, at a respectable 30 miles per gallon. Once it has arrived at a suitable take-off spot – an airport, or adequately sized piece of flat private land – it can fold down the wings, engage its rear-facing propellor, and take off. The folding wings are electrically powered.

At Plattsburgh International Airport looking over Lake Champlain. Photo: Terrafugia

Its cruising speed in the air is 115mph, it has a range of 460 miles, and it can carry 450lb. It requires a 1,700-foot (one-third of a mile) runway to take off and can fit in a standard garage. Terrafugia says that one of the major advantages of the Transition over ordinary light aircraft is safety – in the event of inclement weather, it can simply drive home instead of either being grounded or flying in unsafe conditions.

The Transition has front wheel drive on the road. Photo: Terrafugia

The company hopes now to commence customer deliveries in “Q4 2011” and says that 70 people have already ordered the car, leaving a $10,000 (£6,650) deposit each. The car is expected to retail at $194,000. Deposits are held in escrow, meaning that should the company go bankrupt before delivery, the money will be refunded. [Terrafugia via Daily Telegraph (UK)]

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