In February 2006, a start-up called Terrafugia, led by a gaggle of MIT types, unveiled plans to build an aviation novelty--a flying car. Earlier this month, the company got its Transition vehicle off the ground for its maiden flight.
Upstate New York, we have lift-off. The Transition makes its ascent on March 5 from runway 17 at the Plattsburgh International Airport. The vehicle is classified as a light sport aircraft and requires a sport pilot license to fly. Piloting the two-seat vehicle on this occasion was Phil Meteer, Colonel, USAFR (retired).
The Transition, which looks a bit like a Volkswagen Beetle swallowed by a carp, is accompanied by its chase aircraft. It's still a proof of concept; Terrafugia says that the vehicle will be subjected to additional flight and drive testing and that a preproduction prototype still needs to be built and certified.
In the air, the Transition uses its rear-mounted propeller. On the ground, when functioning as a car, it uses front-wheel drive. Either way, it uses unleaded gasoline from a traditional terrestrial gas station. The vehicle's cruising speed aloft is 115 miles per hour or better, which will take it on a trip of 415 miles, the company says. On the ground, it can travel at highway speeds.
The Transition lines up on the runway in Plattsburgh. The company says that its name, Terrafugia, is Latin for "escape from land." But the vehicle is just as much about giving pilots an easy way to get around when inclement weather or other circumstances keep them out of the air.
Carl Dietrich, CEO and CTO of Terrafugia, gets a fill-up for the Transition, which the company says can switch from plane to car in 30 seconds. You and I call it a flying car; Terrafugia bills it as a "roadable aircraft."
Terrafugia's team poses with the Transition over the winter. Clockwise from top left: Gregor Cadman, engineer; Andrew Sand, engineering technician; Stu Foster, intern; Marc Stiller, engineer; Andrew Heafitz, vice president of business development; Ben Zelnick, engineer; Giora Guth, chase plane pilot; Richard Gersh, vice president of business development; John Telfeyan, senior engineering technician; Phil Meteer, test pilot; Samuel Schweighart, vice president of engineering; Anna Dietrich, chief operating officer; and CEO Carl Dietrich.