Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Flying Car, Terrafugia Transition

The flying car is almost a reality. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the Terrafugia Transition as a "Light Sport Aircraft". The ingenious device is about 50 kilograms overweight, mostly the result of having to include motor vehicle safety devices such as airbags and crumple zones. The FAA said as long as the buyer is made aware of the additional weight the Light Sport Aircraft classification could be used. The LSA classification allows users to meet only 20 hours of training before they can fly!

The Terrafugia Transition "roadable" aircraft – a stylish combination of light aeroplane and car – has been granted useful exemptions by the US Department of Transportation.Following representations by Terrafugia to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has been agreed that production Transitions can use "tires that are appropriately rated for highway speeds and the vehicle weight". They will also be allowed to substitute lightweight polycarbonate windows for traditional automotive safety glass, which is not only heavy but could shatter in such a way as to obscure a pilot's vision in an airborne bird-strike situation.... according to the new spec a fully-fuelled Transition will be able to lift only 330lb of passengers and payload: it can't get airborne carrying two normal American men. Also the price has ballooned from $148k to $250k.

The TT was flight tested in Plattsburgh New York in March and it passed with flying accolades. It flew! It can travel at speed of 115 mph and it has a flight range of 400 miles. The TT does need a flat take off area or a short runway. The TT can be converted from plane to car or vice versa in 30 seconds.

The TT uses regular unleaded fuel both in road and air modes. As a car it can travel at 65 mph. The price is starting at around $200,000. Right now, if a person is interested, you can place a $10,000 deposit, execute buying agreements and be placed in the production queue. Currently, there are 70 orders for the TT and it is expected that they will be on the road, er, in the air by the end of 2011.

How cool is this? If the TT works it is going to turn the notion of commuting and travel on its head. To put it another way, this concept is a game changer. It's too early to know whether the TT will turn out to be an oddity, or a curiosity like the Amphicar.

The Amphicar was produced in the early 1960's. There were some 4,000 or so produced. They remain a popular novelty collector item, but the need and demand for the vehicle was limited. Although it is difficult of know with certainty, but the concept of flying your car is more sexy than using it as a boat.

For now, start rewatching the Jetsons. Besides the flying cars, there may be other fanciful stuff which may become reality.

$10,000 down is all it takes

E cosi va...

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