Despite technology that advances in leaps and bounds, flying cars have largely remained the province of science-fiction and schoolboy fantasies. Even in this modern world where we can talk to people on the other side of the globe at the touch of a button, most people don’t expect to see cars that fly within their lifetime. And yet, there is one company poised to change all of that as they unveil plans to introduce the stuff of legend, personal flying cars, and they’re claiming consumers could have them as early as next year.
Terrafugia, Inc. is a technology company that not too many people have heard of. And it’s no wonder considering they’re the only registered automobile manufacturer in the small state of Massachusetts (and they haven’t released a single product since their incorporation in 2006). But that’s not to say they haven’t been busy. Since their inception (the company was founded by local graduates from MITs Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, mainly using prize monies from various student competitions), the company has been hard at work on one major piece of merchandise that they have dubbed “roadable aircraft”, which translates, as you may have guessed, into the flying car.
Smartly branded as the Transition, this two-person aircraft (with room to spare for luggage) has some amazing features. For starters, it drives just as well as it flies, making it a convertible vehicle (so to speak). If you were to purchase such a vehicle, you would fill it up with regular unleaded gasoline, park it in your garage, and then drive it to any airstrip, where you would take off. Yes, you heard correctly. Drive to the airport, onto the runway, and simply take off into the wide blue yonder.
This is achieved with a set of collapsible wings at the rear of the vehicle that fold out for flight (they may not be great for road aerodynamics, but they’re certainly necessary for flight). After six months of road tests, the first flight took place in March of 2009 and confirmed the road/aircraft’s capabilities with a 37-second, 3,000-foot elevation flight (followed by six subsequent take-offs and landings). Upon release, the vehicle is expected to travel (by air) for over 400 miles (more than 700 kilometers) on a single tank of gas, with speeds reaching 115 miles per hour.
So what will one of these dream-machines cost the average American? Less than you’d think. It’s set to price out at just under $150,000, making it accessible to a sizeable portion of the population. And while it has recently received a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) weight limit exemption that virtually clears it for flight, there are a couple of caveats. Owners will be required to obtain a sport pilot certificate (which will allow them to utilize small airports). And of course, there are also questions about how this type of travel will impact the airways, especially if these personal car-crafts really take off in the private sector. But for now, that’s just idle speculation. Although Terrafugia has reportedly received close to a hundred orders already, the real question is, are people really ready for what could be the transportation of the future (today)?
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