Flying car takes off !

The first flying automobile – equally at home in the sky and on the road – took to the skies on Wednesday. Dubbed the Transition, the two-seat aircraft – designed by US-based company Terrafugia (terra-FOO-gee-ah), Inc – is capable of taking off and landing at local airports, and even being driven on any road.

In fact, transforming from plane to car takes the pilot less than 30 seconds.

“This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility,” said Carl Dietrich, CEO of Terrafugia – a name that means “escape from land” in Latin.

“Travel will now become a hassle-free, integrated land-air experience. A pilot who encounters bad weather could simply land at a small airport and continue the trip by road. It’s what aviation enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918,” he said.

Dietrich claimed that Transition is capable of flying 720 km on a single tank of petrol, at a speed of 180kmph.

While on land, the vehicle boasts of top speeds of up to 150kmph, he added.

For its first flight, the Transition was flown by Phil Meteer, Colonel, USAFR at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York.

Categorised as a Light Sport Aircraft, the Transition will now undergo additional advanced flight and drive testing, and a pre-production prototype will be built and certified before first delivery.

Dietrich said he had already received 40 orders despite an expected price of $2,00,000 (Rs 1 crore approx). Still, he accepted concerns over its price.

Left: Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich refuels the petrol-based Transition flying car at a
regular petrol pump Right: The Transition at take-off

“For an airplane that’s very reasonable, but for a car that’s very much at the high end,” he admitted.

Fabricated out of modern composite materials, the plane has front wheel drive on the road and a propeller for flight. Both the modes are powered by unleaded petrol from a regular pump.

Also, with its wings folded, it can fit in an ordinary garage or parking space.

“This is the first really integrated design where the wings fold up automatically and all the parts are in one vehicle,” Dietrich said.

As for learning to fly, the company CEO believed that almost anyone could become a pilot in as little as 20 hours of flight time in a Transition-specific course.

“Existing pilots,” he said, “could get comfortable quickly with the familiarisation training included with every Transition delivery.”

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