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Flying Car Is One Step Closer to Reality, Thanks to Regulatory Clearance

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Terrafugia, maker of a car-type planeIs it a car? Is it a plane? It’s both. The Transition® Roadable Aircraft, made by the Woburn, Massachusetts, company Terrafugia, has overcome some hurdles preventing it from going into production, now that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made it the first flying car to receive several special exemptions. The Transition needed the exemptions because of conflicts between regulations governing light aircraft and those pertaining to cars.

These exemptions, announced by Terrafugia on June 30, are specific to vehicles that both fly and drive on roads, and allow the Transition to have plastic windows instead of the heavier standard automotive safety glass, and tires not normally permitted on multi-purpose vehicles.

As Jonathan Welsh writes in The Wall Street Journal’s blog Driver’s Seat:

 The company says laminated safety glass used on cars for decades would add too much weight and could fracture in a way that would obscure the pilot’s view through the windshield. Lightweight polycarbonate windshields used in aircraft are designed in part to withstand impacts with birds, which are generally more of a hazard to pilots than drivers.

The vehicle’s tires are the same type used for flight testing and road testing in 2009. They are rated for highway speeds and designed for the stress of landings.

Last month, Terrafugia said delivery of the vehicle would be delayed due to production challenges and problems with suppliers. The company says it expects to begin production this year, with shipping in 2012. It is priced at an estimated $250,000, and the company already has 100 orders, each of which requires a $10,000 refundable deposit.

According to Terrafugia:

Taking advantage of new FAA regulations in the Light Sport Aircraft category, Terrafugia developed the Transition® to provide pilots the convenience of a dual-purpose vehicle. Its unique design allows the Transition® to fold its wings and drive on any surface road with a modern personal airplane platform. Once at the airport, the wings extend and the aircraft is ready for take-off. Both folding and extending the wings is done from inside the cockpit.

The Transition® addresses head-on the issues private and sports pilots face: cost, weather sensitivity, high overall door-to-door travel time and a lack of mobility at destination.

Terrafugia, Latin for “escape the earth,” was founded in 2006 by the award-winning, MIT-trained aeronautical engineers and MBAs, who also happen to be private pilots. Its mission is to provide innovative solutions to the challenges of personal aviation.

In flying mode, the Transition has a wingspan 26 feet wide, and, in driving mode, it is 90 inches wide. The wings on the 19-foot long Transition take less than a minute to fold. Check out the video below:

Image by Loimere (Derek Hatfield), used under its Creative Commons license.


One Response to “Flying Car Is One Step Closer to Reality, Thanks to Regulatory Clearance”


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