Would you like to buy a flying car for $194,000? On June 23, 2010, the Federal Aviation Authority granted Terrafugia Inc. an exemption that allows the company a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 pounds for its Transition “roadable aircraft” — 110 pounds above the usual limit for the Light Sport Aircraft designation.
This week, Terrafugia Inc. launched a media blitz in which they were featured on morning shows successfully flying a car in the air. The car has retractable wings and can be driven as a car when the wings are pulled in or flown as a plane when the wings are extended. There are already 70 customers who have deposits down for the earliest productions of these flying cars. They are expected to be available sometime next year. Wouldn’t you like to be able to fly over traffic in order to avoid it and get to your destination in a hurry? As a practical matter, we are not there yet. These flying cars need a runway for takeoff and landing. You also need some type of training and pilot’s license as a regular driver’s license will not suffice.
- Five former Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students, all of them pilots, founded Terrafugia, Inc. in 2006.
- Terrafugia will unveil its production-class plane later in July at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
- The Transition uses normal high-octane gasoline, has front wheel drive, air bags, and a safety cage/crumple zone.
- The Transition gets about 30 miles per gallon and needs a third of a mile for a runway.
- It is powered by a rear propeller and flies about 115 miles per hour.
- It only holds about 460 pounds, including fuel and passengers, so it will not hold a lot of cargo.
- The Transition uses normal fuel, making it a green plane compared to standard planes.
- You can drive the Transition like a car or fly it like a plane.
- The “Light Sport Aircraft” designation is important because licenses for planes with this designation only require 20 hours of flying time, making it easier, quicker, and less expensive to obtain a license, which should result in more potential sales.
- Eliminates the need to catch a taxi, limo, shuttle, train, bus or other ride from the airport-you can just fly your flying car into the airport and then drive it away to your destination.
What is the future of flying cars? Are they safe? Will more vehicles that can fly present a safety or national security risk? How will they be regulated? What if there is an accident, will this set all the advances back and cause a crack down on this form of travel? These cars only need about a third of a mile to take off. Will we see drivers using normal streets as runaways? Will a version that does not need a runway for takeoff and landing be developed? Are these cars overpriced?
I do not suggest being an early adopter of this emerging travel option as there are too many open issues (plus the price will come down and the quality will go up), however, I do salute the efforts and ingenuity. In time, say by 2020, I do see flying cars in our future.
What do you think? If you had an extra $194,000 to spend, would you spend it on a flying car?