The Terrafugia Transition: a flying car that fits in your garage

a vintage photo of a car with a wing and propeller attached

The dream of a flying car came closer to reality as the Terrafugia Transition was classified as a light sport aircraft by the FAA. Flickr photo.

Is it a flying car … or is it a drivable airplane? Actually, the Terrafugia Transition is the world’s first “roadable aircraft” according to Terrafugia, the aviation — or automotive? — startup company developing the hybrid machine. Terrafugia announced that the appearance of the Transition in airspace and on highways cleared a major hurdle Wednesday. The Federal Aviation Administration granted the Terrafugia Transition an exemption to be classified as a “light sport aircraft.” This classification makes it easier for Transition owners to get certified by the FAA to live their dreams behind the wheel of a flying car.

The flying car that fits in your garage

As a car, the Terrafugia (Latin for “escape the earth”) Transition fits in a garage and blends into traffic. It is the opinion of CNET’s Johnthon E. Skillings that the Terrafugia Transition looks like a “Volkswagen in the belly of a carp.” He reports that when the two-seater’s wings are in folded mode the vehicle is about 19 feet long, 80 inches wide and 6 feet 9 inches high. As an airplane, The Transition stands a few inches lower and has a wingspan of 27 feet 6 inches. The vehicle burns unleaded fuel from the corner gas station on the road and in the air. On the highway, it has a top speed of 65 mph and gets 30 miles to the gallon. In flight it cruises at 115 mph and has a range of about 450 miles. According to Terrafugia, the plane can be transitioned from aircraft into roadgoing vehicle in just 30 seconds.

Light sport aircraft rules

The Terrafugia Transition has been designated as a light sport aircraft, the smallest private plane classified by the FAA. The maximum weight allowed is 1,320 pounds. But it was impossible for Terrafugia to fit the airbags, crumple zones and roll cage required for cars into that weight. Jalopnik reports that Terrafugia wanted the plane to be classified as a light sport aircraft so owners would only need 20 hours of flying time in order to fly the Transition. The FAA granted an exemption for the extra 110 pounds, and Terrafugia can now sell the Transition as long as it informs buyers about the weight difference.

Transition flies, will Terrafugia?

Terrafugia says one of the major advantages of the Transition over ordinary light aircraft is safety. The Telegraph reports that if pilots are grounded when the weather gets too bad for flying, they can simply drive home. But it will be awhile until you see the Terrafugia Transition caught in a traffic jam. The vehicle flying now is just a prototype. Terrafugia expects a production model for customers in 2011. However, 70 people have already ordered the flying car expected to sell for $194,000. Each potential buyer throws down a fully-refundable $10,000 held by the company in escrow, just in case Terrafugia crashes before the Transition gets off the ground.

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