A flying car as a way of transportation by using a hybrid is becoming a reality and all signs point to practical since air travel is better economically and the commutes are faster.
Woburn, Mass.-based Terrafugia Inc. said Monday that its prototype flying car has completed its first flight, bringing the company closer to its goal of selling the flying car within the next year. The vehicle — dubbed the Transition — has two seats, four wheels and wings that fold up so it can be driven like a car. Last month, it flew at 1,400 feet for eight minutes. Commercial jets fly at 35,000 feet.
Around 100 people have already put down a $10,000 deposit to get a Transition when they go on sale, and those numbers will likely rise after Terrafugia introduces the Transition to the public later this week at the New York Auto Show. But don’t expect it to show up in too many driveways. It’s expected to cost $279,000.
And it won’t help if you’re stuck in traffic. The car needs a runway.
The flying car has always had a special place in the American imagination. Inventors have been trying to make them since the 1930s, according to Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst who owns R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, N.Y.
But Mann thinks Terrafugia has come closer than anyone to making the flying car a reality. The government has already granted the company’s request to use special tires and glass that are lighter than normal automotive ones, to make it easier for the vehicle to fly. The government has also temporarily exempted the Transition from the requirement to equip vehicles with electronic stability control, which would add about six pounds to the vehicle.
The Transition is currently going through a battery of automotive crash tests to make sure it meets federal safety standards.
Mann questions the size of the market for the Transition. The general aviation market has been in decline for two decades, he said, largely because of fuel costs and the high cost of liability for manufacturers. Also, fewer people are learning how to fly.
“This is not going to be an inexpensive aircraft to produce or market,” he said. “It has some uniqueness, and will get some sales, but the question is, could it ever be a profitable enterprise?”
Mann sees the western U.S. as the most likely market, where people could fly instead of driving long distances.