Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beat the traffic: take the flying car

U.S. company tests its $194,000 US 'roadable aircraft'

The Terrafugia Transition seats two, drives regular speeds on roads and can do about 180 km/h in flight. (Courtesy Terrafugia)

A U.S. company has realized the longstanding fantasy of a flying car.

Terrafugia Inc.'s "roadable aircraft," named Transition, completed its first flight at Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Wednesday, the company said.

"It’s what aviation enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918," CEO Carl Dietrich said in a news release.

But with an expected price tag of $194,000 US by the time the first one is delivered to a user in 2011, it's not likely to reach a mass market. The Transition is aimed at giving sport and private pilots convenient ground transportation.

According to the company, the two-seat vehicle can take off and land at smaller airports, and the pilot can convert it to a roadworthy vehicle by retracting the wings from inside the cockpit in less than 30 seconds.

Terrafugia — Latin for "escape from land" — can drive at regular speeds on the ground and do about 180 km/h in the air. Its tank holds enough unleaded gas for four hours of cruising. It fits in a garage, has front-wheel drive for the surface and a pusher propeller for flight.

The Transition requires a U.S. sport pilot licence to fly, but the company website said that could take as little as 20 hours of flight time in a Transition-specific course.

A "full vehicle parachute" is available.

Users would have to file a flight plan on trips between larger airports.

Terrafugia, based in Woburn, Mass., near Boston, was founded by five pilots who are graduates of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is backed by private investors.

Original here

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