Flying Car Has Successful Test

March 19, 2009 01:47 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
It may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but an aircraft that can fold up its wings and drive like a car has had a successful test flight.

“The Transition”

Earlier in March, a team of engineers from Terrafugia, Inc. saw their hopes of creating a “flying car” become reality. 

Terrafugia worked for five years to create an aircraft meant to help pilots avoid the delays caused by bad weather or other circumstances. The Transition, as the vehicle is called, can convert into a car in less than 30 seconds, and fits in an average household garage.

“This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility. Travel now becomes a hassle-free integrated land-air experience. It’s what aviation enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918,” CEO of Terrafugia Carl Dietrich said in a press release.
Philip Meteer, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel, piloted the Transition for a 37-second test flight at 3,000 feet above the Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, according to the Boston Herald.

“It was a wahoo moment!” the Boston Herald quoted Meteer as saying.

The Transition is actually called a “roadable aircraft” instead of a “flying car” because it’s flown by licensed pilots to and from local airports. People who aren’t trained pilots already will need to obtain at least a Sport Pilot license (and have a driver’s license) before they can operate the machine.

The vehicle can manage highway speeds on the ground and reach 115 MPH in the air, according to The Cleveland Leader.
More test flights are necessary before the $194,000 vehicle will be ready for production, the Boston Herald reported.

Terrafugia expects customers to start receiving Transitions in 2011, and reservations for airframes are already being taken.

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Historical Context: First flights; test driving the gas-powered car

It’s been decades since Orville and Wilbur Wright launched the aviation era on Dec. 17, 1903. A bitter wind blew off the Atlantic Ocean as the Wright brothers tossed a coin to decide who would try out the aircraft.

Chance chose Wilbur to embark on the world’s first manned, motor-powered flight, in which he cruised only a few feet from the ground.

However, a German inventor named Karl Jatho argued that the honors of “first flight” were rightfully his. On August 18, 1903, and in front of a crowd of four witnesses outside of the city of Hanover, Jatho used a simple 10 hp motor to elevate his machine, which he says traveled 200 feet at a height of about 10 feet. With the exception of interviews with the four witnesses, now stored at the Hannover Airport, no record of Jatho’s attempt remains.

On Sept. 20, 1893, Charles Duryea drove the first gasoline-powered car developed in the United States. With his brother, Frank, Charles helped develop a gasoline-powered car in Springfield, Mass., in the early 1890s. Though not acknowledged in his lifetime, Charles was later credited with being the “first American to design and run a gas-powered vehicle,” according to the History Channel.

Related Topic: More flying vehicles

Another big figure in the flying cars quest is Paul Moller. A former engineering professor from the University of California, Moller spent millions of dollars and decades on the effort. He also created a company, Moller International, to help with his plans. In 2007, MSNBC reported that his first airborne vehicle, which looked like a flying saucer, hovered 10 feet off the ground.

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