“Roadable aircraft” to be test flown soon

The Transition, a small aircraft that converts into a car is scheduled for testing by Terrafugia, a Woburn, Massachusetts based company. The vehicle’s wings can extend and retract and transform the roadable car into a fixed-wing airplane and vice-versa in only a few minutes.

As a car, the transition will be able to reach speeds of 90 MPH. As an airplane, it can fly at 115 MPH with a range of 500 miles.

 

The flying car is not a new idea. Creating an airplane-car hybrid was repeatedly attempted with no commercial success since as early as 1917, with the Curtis Autoplane. Other notable flying cars were the Arrowbile(1937), Airphibian(1945), ConvairCar(1940s), and the Aerocar(1949). The Aerocar was the most successful to date, but with only six built. More recent designs of flying cars, such as the Skycar by Moller focus on very sophisticated technologies that will allow non-pilots to fly them (or ride them). The technology to control air traffic and the vehicles themselves with no human intervention is far from being ready.

 

Terrafugia is hoping to solve the problems faced by other flying cars by marketing the Transition as a “roadable airplane” rather than as a “flying car”. You will need a pilot license to take off, fly, and land it. This small change in concept makes a big change in the required technologies and reduces the overwhelming limitations imposed by current regulation and the air traffic control system. There are currently about 40 orders for the Transition. However, Terrafugia, whose name stands for “escape from the ground” in Latin, still needs to show that the technology behind it works before proving that the concept works commercially too. Flight testing will begin next month.