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Is It a Car, a Plane? No It's the Terrafugia Transition, a Bit of Both

Now we can all look forward to a near future where sidewalks are replaced with conveyor belts and robot maids bring us nicely chilled cocktails as we relax after work and all that sci-fi like stuff...because someone's gone and built a successful flying car. It's called the Terrafugia Transition, and it completed a successful first flight on March 5.

It's not quite as advanced as, say, the flying Delorean from Back to the Future, but Terrafugia's (roughly meaning "flees the Earth") invention is nevertheless a carbon-fiber framed full road-going vehicle that automatically transforms between light aircraft and car in around 30 seconds, complete with fold-away flight controls inside the cabin. Its styling is odd, as you may expect from such a strange hybrid, but perhaps in a world where the not-so-dissimilar looking Aptera electric car is on the road it's not too shocking. Maybe that's why Terrafugia's calling it by the slightly clumsy title "roadable aircraft" instead of "flying car."

In road-going mode the Transition's driven by a 30MPG regular gasoline engine that powers its front wheels. And fantastically the same engine also drives the vehicle's pusher-propeller. When its flying it can manage 115mph (its unclear whether that's air-speed or ground speed) and has a 450-mile range. The wings electrically crank in on the ground, meaning it'll fit into a regular garage, and it even has regular car-like access doors—that automotive design is continued into the vehicle's crash structures too. Flying it requires a Sport Pilot's License.

The Transition is just a pre-prototype test vehicle, of course—it's undergone a hefty series of ground and airborne tests, during which its former Air Force pilot said it "flew like a really nice airplane"—and the team now plans to take those lessons into a next-gen prototype before hopefully going into production as a certified Light Sport Aircraft.

Does the world really need a flying car? Well, there's no particular case against the Transition—and from a green point of view, the fact it uses regular gas is actually a good thing, since other light aircraft tend to use leaded aviation fuel. Assuming it doesn't cost too much to purchase it may also bring the joys of private flying to a group of individuals who may not otherwise have thought of it.

[Terrafugia and AVWeb]