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The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

Posted April 02, 2009 11:35 AM by Steve Melito

What would the neighbors say if they saw you driving a car like this down the street? Unless they're afraid of flying, they might just ask you for a ride. The Terrafugia Transition is a revolutionary new vehicle that doubles as a light sport aircraft (LSA) and two-passenger automobile. Designed by a team of MIT-trained aeronautical engineers and MBAs, the Transition runs on unleaded gasoline and has retractable wings so that it can run on the road and fit in your garage.

The Flying Car

Transforming the Transition from car-to-plane or airplane-to-automobile takes only 30 seconds. The controls for folding and extending its electromechanical wings are located inside a cockpit that measures 51" at the shoulder. When folded, the wings are 6' 9" tall – about the same height as some sports utility vehicles (SUVs). But that's about where the comparison to a gas-guzzler ends. Fitted with a 20-gallon fuel tank, the Transition burns 5 gallons per hour (gph) while flying and gets 30 miles per gallon (mpg) while driving on the highway.

The Aero Auto

A different kind of "hybrid", the Terrafugia Transition combines convenience and safety in an "aero auto". On the ground, the dual-purpose vehicle features front-wheel drive and an automotive-style entry and exit. With a useful load of 430 lbs, the Transition also has a cargo area with plenty of room for skis, fishing poles, or golf clubs. In the air, a pilot can listen to the hum of a 100-hp Rotax 912S engine while checking the plane's all-glass avionics. When it's time to land the light sport aircraft (LSA) for a day on the slopes, at the lake, or on the links, both pilot and passenger are kept safe by a full-vehicle parachute and automotive crash-safety features.

First Flight, First Deposit

Last month, the makers of the Terrafugia Transition celebrated the vehicle's first flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in upstate New York. According Terrafugia's web site, the "roadable aircraft" has a cruising speed of 115 mph, a stall speed of 52 mph, and a range of 460 miles. The freedom of flight comes at a price, however. With an anticipated purchase price of $194,000 (USD), the Terrafugia Transition requires a $10,000 airframe reservation deposit.

Click here to watch a YouTube video of Terrafugia's Wright Brothers moment on March 5, 2009.

Resources:

https://www.terrafugia.com/

Steve Melito

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#1

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/02/2009 2:47 PM

The majority of my flight time has been in aircraft of comparable performance, such as the Cessna 150, or Piper Tomahawk. I think a buddy of mine and I once took the time to climb to 11 thousand feet in a 152.

What the service ceiling is will pretty much determine where such a machine would have hopes of any appreciable sales.

If some of these sell, I'd expect them to sell in the same places it is more common to get around in a small place already.

The ex-president Bush could probably do a lot for his reputation by buying one and flying himself and Laura around. I was always suspicious he was not that great a pilot particularly because he in relation to Iraq did not seem to have a plan B, at the outset.

Of course such a plane car would have appeal in flat states.

Really the most common place in the country for people to get around by light plane is Alaska, from what I know.

For the money, One Hundred and Ninety Four thousand dollars you could probably buy a new Cessna 172, and leave a couple of cars around, and pay for taxis or limos wherever you went.

Typically in the history of flying cars they make neither good cars, or good airplanes.

Still when pressed, I say: "Progress through fun!"

I'm enough of a Repuplican to resent it when people complain about others having more fun, and enough of a Democrat to believe, everybody ought to have some.

(As a joke, I also say: The Democrats say we love you, but we want your guns, and the Republicans say we hate you, but you can keep your gun.) I don't know, would you really want to drive one of these things in Manhattan traffic?

If I was to design an ad campaign I'd sure go out of my way to suggest showing one parking in Manhattan.

Certainly you have to accept that there is a psychological danger to such a machine for I rarely do a through preflight on my car.

Will the operator, driver pilot be able to treat the machine like a car, or must they treat it like an airplane?

Low and slow is most dangerous.

Does this thing self drain the water out of the fuel tanks?

From my experience I needed to do a flight plan, and know the weather when I was getting off the ground.

What fun it would be to be able to operate a flying machine in the same way as you do a car.

Hell! you can suspect that it took us a long time to learn to fly, partly because we wanted to be able to fly like birds.

I've seen seagulls do some incredible things I don't know of any aircraft able to do.

(Once saw a seagull stop in the wind, put one wing down and in one spot in the air roll and stop and take a look at me, and then fly on.) To get around town we need to be able to fly like that.

Funny thing is we can probably figure out how to make an exoskeleton that would allow us to do that.

Some of my recent study into Asteroid detection systems, and the actual fact of getting a spaceship to land on one, gives me some sense of awe at our abilities.

Still I have strong doubts that a man will ever soon fly on Earth the way a seagull can.

Essentially the Terrafugia is a disappointment, for it really is not much different from flying cars made in the 40s.

Still of course, I wish great luck to them and would love myself to have one.

What's the top ground speed by the way?

How useful for spies working between North and South Korea, might this be?

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#2

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/02/2009 3:17 PM

Just the latest, albiet one of the prettier flying cars.

You will need 2X to 4X this price to pick up a good bush plane for Alaska

Dehavilland Beavers (DHC-2) on floats are about 280K

DHC-4 on floats run around 400K

I don't think there has ever been a better bush plane.

But for the rest, I heartily concur

Until there is a way to have a fender-bender in the sky, I don't much want my neighbor flying.

Now an autogyro comes a lot closer to satisfying your design requirements.

Hmmmm

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/02/2009 3:58 PM

For sure I had my doubts about the Alaska market, since I've at least flown enough to know what a shock it is to be at 5,000 MSL, and then 300 AGL.

In the past somewhere I wrote about how I felt flying boats, though neglected had a place for both military and civilian uses.

Sometimes I have wondered if it made sense, and you could beat the Staten Island Ferry by essentially making Ferries that flew dependent on "Ground Effect", more than any real flight capability.

Sometimes I've wondered if that would be practical, and superior to hydrofoil.

Of course there are some machines in the world that fly, sortof, across water, but so far they do tend to require a great deal of fuel.

As far as a place to experiment with flying cars, and hovercraft, and the like, I'd love to myself live long enough to see what systems worked between Staten Island and Manhattan Island, or between Buffalo and Toronto.

Really, if an Air Car has to land at Tetterboro, and then drive into the city, you gottah wonder if it is worth it, even as fun.

In the end, the flying car needs to seamlessly interface with the urban rural and suburban environments, and ought not require an airport runway. Nor ought it to require any particularly advanced flying skills.

In the end, a decision about buying a machine comes down to this question, will I work for the machine, or will the machine work for me?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/02/2009 4:23 PM

All old ideas are new again - given enough gov't funding!

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=523

for urban aviation:

http://www.damninteresting.com/index.php?s=autogyro

http://www.start-flying.com/new%20site/auto_history.htm

The autogyro saw some use for airmail. On July 6, 1939, Eastern Air Lines began the world's first scheduled air mail service by a rotary winged aircraft, using a Kellet gyro to fly from the roof of the Philadelphia Post Office to the airport at Camden, New Jersey. This experimental service lasted about one year.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/03/2009 12:26 AM

In the end, the flying car needs to seamlessly interface with the urban rural and suburban environments, and ought not require an airport runway. Nor ought it to require any particularly advanced flying skills.

This is why these are not really feasible. Can you imagine some joker trying to set this puppy down on I-95 anywhere north of Richmond, VA? Or any other highway in the NE? Maybe on I-80 in Wyoming, I-10 in West Texas, or I-70 in KS, but that's not urban or even suburban, that's desolation, something like 0.4 vehicle per mile. It might be feasible to land on an empty flatbed 18-wheeler, similar to landing on an aircraft carrier, and let a ramp down to get off at the next rest area. Let's see that one on You Tube video.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/03/2009 2:21 AM

Dear Guest, Are we in disagreement? Did you miss something about what I said?

I thought I pretty much made it clear that the Terrafugia was not much different from flying cars of the late 40s.

Only real improvement I see is the engine, and the auto fuel.

What I did say was that it is possible considering engineering feats we have accomplished.

I also left it at a definition of what a real flying car needs to be, no matter what it costs.

As far as flying cars are concerned, my position is that the operative word, or definition of them, must be recognized as "Cars".

Let me put it another way.

If I ran an R&D company, and I was CEO, and I had engineers on the payroll, I'd be telling them to make me a "Car" that flies.

There have been wheels on airplanes for a good while. -I could go on about Sperry autopilots and all that stuff, but my point is not all that oblique.

: I rarely answer "Guests" anymore. It is very nice to have the option to write a Private Message. In a private message I'd say, figure out how to do it, not tell us its impossible, because, its not.

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#7

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/05/2009 8:08 PM

Here in Panama, this would be a VERY practical vehicle. The country is spotted with general aviation runways, and highway travel is not so easy in a lot of the country (in fact, quite impossible when trying to reach one of the islands with an airstrip!). I can see this knocking an eight hour journey down to just a couple of hours. The only issue is that the price puts this out of reach of most Panamanians...

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/07/2009 8:44 PM

I spent some time looking at flying cars on Wikipedia. Since you, (cwarner7 11) said they would have a place where you live, but cost of the Terrafugia was too high.

I was looking for old useful designs that had worked, but were inhibited by Control.

I did find the LaBiche FSC 1, which was very interesting, but did not give a price.

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/19/2009 12:38 PM

price is not the only issue. traffic of airplanes(helicopters too) is regulated 24 hours x 365 days by control towers in all commercial/air force airports through radar device. i wonder how the movement of terrafugia - flying cars can be regulated. considering that the machines may cost far less/more affordable some years hence than what they do at present, there can be thousands owning and flying their personal all over panama at any given point of time - no lanes defined/demarcated for traffic discipline. ??????

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/19/2009 2:31 PM

This has long been an impediment to the flying car. Supposedly we do have the technology to overcome the inhibitions represented by a legitimate need for "traffic control". Low and slow is a dangerous way to fly. Florida is the only place I've lived where there was so much air traffic by small planes that head on air crashes occurred.

We suppose that we have the technology to create a flying car that goes from point A to point B automatically, but you gottah wonder who of us would really want to trust so completely in the robotics?

Hell, if you can afford 194 thousand dollars to buy a flying car, you ought to be able to afford flight lessons anyway.

Would be really cool though, for a car pilot to have the option of simply punching in on the dash where they want to go, and not having to do much at all after that.

Some of the dream for me would be merging from the air on the super highway. Wow wouldn't that be cool!

This advance would seem to call for a craft that had really no more wing length of 8 feet so as to allow for lane widths.

Overall that is a very tough design parameter for anything that would seemlessly interface with highways and airports, and essentially all ground and air traffic.

Of course I am aware that the Batmobile is the machine that does this.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: The Car That Flies: The Terrafugia Transition

04/19/2009 3:26 PM

well.. not that this is realistic.. but my old idea of helium filled aircraft makes the collision thing a bit softer.. because 1, you won't be going very fast, and 2, you have built in cushioning. The aircraft could be human or small engine powered, and if you run into someone or something, you will just bounce off. no bird danger.. the only danger is fast moving aircraft.

Chris

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