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3/19/2009
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Maiden Flight Of 'Flying Car' Called Rock Solid

The Terrafugia Transition is a two-seat aircraft that converts into a Volkswagen Beetle-like automobile.


Terrafugia's Flying Car

Terrafugia's Flying Car
(click for larger image)
Aircraft maker Terrafugia has successfully flown its "flying car," taking the vehicle a step closer to becoming commercially available.

Officially called the Transition Roadable Aircraft Proof of Concept, the two-seat aircraft had its maiden flight March 5 at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, N.Y. It was a runway flight, which means the aircraft only flew above the runway. The fight from takeoff to landing lasted only about 30 seconds.

Nevertheless, Terrafugia said the test proved that the Transition is ready for more advanced flying. Test pilot retired U.S. Air Force Col. Phil Meteer said in a video on the company's Web site that the flight was smooth and the aircraft performed well.

"Stability is always a question on your first flight," Meteer said. "It was just rock solid."

Meteer said the Transition handled like a normal plane and there were no surprises. "It was remarkable for being unremarkable," he said. "It just flew like a really nice airplane."


Terrafugia's Flying Car

Terrafugia's Flying Car
(click for larger image)
The four-wheel aircraft resembles a Volkswagen Beetle with wings and a propeller in the back. The Transition is capable of flying 450 miles at more than 115 mph. On the road, the front-wheel drive vehicle runs on unleaded gasoline, has a top speed of 65 mph and gets 30 miles to the gallon.

The Transition takes less than 30 seconds to transform from plane to car, which essentially is accomplished by folding the wings. In the car position the vehicle is 6 feet 9 inches tall, 80 inches wide, and 18 feet 9 inches long, and fits into a standard house garage.

Categorized as a light sport aircraft, buyers will need a sport pilot license to fly the Transition legally. The vehicle is meant to give pilots a "convenient ground transportation option."

"Travel now becomes a hassle-free integrated land-air experience," Carl Dietrich, chief executive of Terrafugia, said in a statement.

Terrafugia has not said when the flying car will be available, but is taking orders. Would-be buyers will have to put up a $10,000 deposit. The Transition is expected to cost $194,000.

Terrafugia has a video gallery of the first flight on its Web site.


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