They are at the entrance to the 2012 New York International Auto Show, their first auto show, with only one vehicle, but what a vehicle. Terrafugia is a Massachusetts company sure to become increasingly known as the people who make vehicles that can fly to more than 5000 public airports and then be driven home to a garage. Foul weather can ground the pilot of a light aircraft but with the “Transition” the sport pilot’s license gives way to a driver’s license and the journey continues. Even without a storm, landing for a quick stop in town seems more practical. The plane becomes as useful and gives as much freedom as a car.
In biology, we say that each organism has a niche in the ecosystem. Vehicles also fill a role in our transportation system. Electric vehicles, to a large extent, may be best around town and for less than 50 to 100 miles of travel. The Terrafugia Transition is a vehicle at another extreme and more suited to 50 to 500 miles of travel. With its 23 gallons of premium automotive gasoline it can reach highway speeds of about 65 mph with 35 mpg. In the air, its maximum speed is 115 mph with a 5 gph fuel usage. The “ceiling” for the vehicle is about 10,000 feet. The NY Daily News reports that in two states, “Alaska or Montana, … pilots are allowed to use roadways as runways.” These vehicles may encourage more of these regulations.
What Makes It Possible:
Why does such a vehicle appear now? In 2004, the FAA added the “Sports Pilot License.” Becoming licensed requires half the time. Newer materials like carbon fiber allow a vehicle to be lighter (970 lbs.) but still strong. New engines (Rotax 912 ULS 112HP) allow the vehicle to combine power and light weight with a cleaner fuel. Because the vehicle must travel in the air, some ground-level exceptions have been allowed in parts for the windshield, wheels, airbag configuration, and the electronic stability control.
A Test Pilot’s Perspective:
Col Phil Meteer, USAFR (Ret.) is clearly a dedicated and devoted test pilot who was able to tell us a bit of his association with Terrafugia. From a young age, he had dreamed of and sketched flying cars. He kept his interest through 18 years with the Airforce and discovered that in the Massachusetts town next to his home a company was building a vehicle that could travel on roadways and in the air. He liked what he saw and approached Terrafugia with a plan to take the Transition through the certification process. He speaks with a passion and intense interest in the project that shines through the video below.
There are about 75 flights that must be accomplished to complete the certification process. Vehicles can then start being delivered late in 2012 or early next year. There are presently orders for over 100 vehicles. A $10,000 deposit is required but a show special was announced at the press conference on Thursday that would reduce this to $2500. But then you’ll also have to come up with the balance to meet the final price of $279,000. You can reserve yours on the Terrafugia website.
Road-able Aircraft vs Flying Car:
While it has been referred to as a “flying car,” Carl Dietrich tells us it is actually a “road-able aircraft.” You want to be in the air flying straight to your destination, avoiding traffic and the restriction of following a roadway while enjoying the view from the air. If it were only an electric aircraft … it could also be whisper silent.
Photo Credit: An airplane at a car show, Terrafugia Transition at NYIAS, by author (all rights reserved).
We share this World; its past, present resources and our combined future. With every aspiration, the very molecules we use for life are passed to others through time and space so that each of us may be considered a Breath on the Wind. This part of the world's consciousness lives in NYC; has worked in law, research, construction, engineering; has traveled, often drawn to Asia; writes on Energy and Electric Vehicle issues and looks forward to all your comments. "If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect." - Benjamin Franklin