flying car lands in New York

 Post from Alan Brown:

The big news at the New York Auto Show this week is the Transition flying car from Terrafugia, a company launched by three MIT students in 2006. The vehicle took its first test flight just before the show (you can see it here).

I remember running into the founders, Carl Dietrich, Anna Mracek Dietrich and Sam Schweighart, at one of MIT’s technology events. My first reaction was, “Are you serious?” They explained how the combination of lightweight carbon composites, powerful compact engines, computerized flight instrumentation, and FAA’s simplified regulations for Light Sport Aircraft had opened the door for real innovation.

On the ground, with its tail up and wings double-folded at its side, it looks like a large swan gliding backwards down the road. I know that’s not a strong selling point, but once those wings extend it takes off and flies like any other two-seater small airplane.

Top speed is 115 mph. Even more remarkable, the composite structure slashes its weight to only 1,430 lbs. at takeoff (970 lbs. empty). It gets 35 mpg on the road (on premium gasoline).

About the only downside is cost, just under $300,000. That is enough to buy a rather nice light sport airplane and have change left over for a Porsche Carrera.

Incidentally, the Transition is not the only flying car (or, more precisely, if you watch it drive, “roadable airplane”) in the skies. A Dutch company, PAL-V, has developed a three-wheel car that seems nimble on the road and converts to a helicopter. You can see it here.

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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

April 2012

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