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The problem with previous attempts to build a flying car, according to some experts, is that engineers started with a car and tried to morph it into an airplane. When the founders of Terrafugia embarked on the latest endeavor of taking the flying car out of the pages of science fiction and making it a transportation reality, they reversed the formula. They started with an airplane and attempted to build a car.

So far, it worked. Six years in the making, the company's prototype Transition aircraft completed its first test flight on March 23, an 8-minute, 3-second jaunt over the skies of Plattsburgh, N.Y.

The vehicle has been making the rounds at general aviation trade shows for months. You may have even seen our earlier post on the flying car here. On Wednesday, it broke new ground in making its debut at the New York Auto Show.

"We think we've got a pretty good feel for the aviation market," said Cliff Allen, vice president of sales for Terrafugia. "But we have this big unknown, and that's what's the market in the more general sense? We've had indications there's a lot more interest."

Allen said the company has taken $10,000 deposits from approximately 100 prospective owners. The company expects to begin delivery within the year. It carries an initial sticker price of $279,000, which in the aviation market seems inexpensive for such a new technology.

(By comparison, a brand new Cessna Skyhawk 172, the stalwart of the general aviation industry for decades, costs about the same).

While it may be premature to call the company a success, Terrafugia, based in suburban Boston, has already cleared hurdles that, since 1917, have befallen other attempts to create a flying car.

For one, it's already street legal. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have approved the concept--the vehicle comes with both a VIN number on its dashboard and an N-number on its tail.

Second, it has actually flown. Retired Air Force test pilot Phil Meteer heralded a new era when he lifted off the 10,000-foot runway in Plattsburgh. He called the takeoff, "One small step for an airplane, one giant leap for a car."

And the Transition arrives eight years after the FAA has made it easier for smaller aircraft to be certified and for new pilots to be minted. Potential pilots can receive their sport licenses after 20 hours of flight training, fewer than the 40 needed for a private pilot's license.

Allen said so far, a few of Terrafugia's clients do not yet hold a pilot's license. But that hasn't stifled curiosity.

Crowds circled the display at the Jacob Javits Center on Tuesday as Terrafugia officials demonstrated the flying car's retractable wings. Two electric motors power the wings as they unfold from a standing position in driving mode. It takes about 30 seconds for them to extend into flying position.

The transition between flying and driving is kept simple by the fact there are separate controls – another way Terrafugia has solved engineering problems that stumped previous flying car developers.

There is both a steering wheel for driving and a control stick for flying that emerges from beneath the seat and locks into place.

There are rudder pedals for flying and steering on the runway, and an accelerator and brake pedal for driving and a separate throttle for flight. It uses premium automotive fuel.

"You're dealing with two different engineering challenges," Allen said. "One of the big differences is now we have the materials to make it work on the road. And now, one of the breakthroughs for Terrafugia is we now have something that works. It drives. It flies. It's real."

AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley discusses the Terrafugia last year on Countdown With Keith Olbermann:



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  • 195 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Astro, Judy, Elroy? Jetsons here we come...
      • 3 Years Ago
      IS ANYONE OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER THE FLYING PINTO OUT OF OXNARD AIRPORT? A wing-engine with rear facing prop-twin tail assembly attached to the back of a Ford Pinto and the car flew. Its demise was not when the wing portion separated from the car in flight, but when the wing portion broke causing the car to plummet to earth killing all inside the car. Hopefully, this won't happen with this flying car.
      tomatomike
      • 3 Years Ago
      There was a combination car and aircraft manufactured in the 1950s, The Aerocar. It was a compact car with detachable wings and tail section.
      CaptChas
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hasnt this been tryed already ?? "Didnt Fly" the first couple times,Dont think it will this time either
      Bonjour Bertrand
      • 3 Years Ago
      Notwithstanding the Keith Olbermann stupid interview (nothing too surprising there) I would buy one if it makes it to the marketplace..
      eddyvales
      • 3 Years Ago
      i would like to drive one. and maybe buy one.
      vampyreangelus
      • 3 Years Ago
      they would never allow that here because people would be trying to land and take off and crashing into things, just because it turns into a plane doesnt mean its a good idea.
      rbrtkyte
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hate to say it but ths thing will NEVER be approved if you ask me ,There is a TON of blind spots behind the drivers seat .Just look at the video.And thats not including all the other obstacles already mentioned. Nope until we come up with another way of taking off this will never work,Then we have to re-work all our roads to accomadate this sort of thing.
      outofsavannah
      • 3 Years Ago
      ok ... every few years some company with way too much perishable cash-on-hand marches one of these things out ... and the glitter of it promises the believers (i.e. males) that someday soon we'll all be banging Judy Jetson (or Jane near closing time) ... but here's the rub ... take this all to it's logical conclusion ... even if we DO work out the technology side of this, we STILL have the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, cousin-marrying tire screechers out there CONTROLLING these things ... only now, instead of wheels on pavement, they'll be searching for their Skoal cans while piloting flying, guided missles ... yup, nothing could possible go wrong here ....
      Paul
      • 3 Years Ago
      NEW, hell, they had these in WWII,
      hogmire9
      • 3 Years Ago
      It has flown 8 minutes and 3 seconds on its only test flight. I'm thinking we have a way to go here. $279k sticker price? How much this company give me on my trade in of a Honda 95 mini van with over 200k miles? One owner!
        yukidongo1
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hogmire9
        'Bout as much as they'll give me on a '08 Suzuki SX4 with 170,000 on it, and still owing for 1 more year's payments. Not a whole lot...LOL. We can wish, though... I agree with another poster, though...these need to be able to take off in traffic. The one I saw about 15 or 20 years ago could drive like a car. If you decided to fly, it would lift straight up--just like a Harrier, and then the engines would redirect the flow and you would go forward. I believe the flight speed was 250 miles per hour. It had several safety mechanisms. One was that the care was light enough for a parachute to set it down safely if the motor quit. ..but it had back up engines, so that wasn't likely to happen. It looked more like a car with style than a plane "car" wannabe. What good is a plane/car that can't take off from the highway. I liked the price tag and the design of the other, better, I think.
        Richard
        • 2 Years Ago
        @hogmire9
        The vehicle has been making the rounds at general aviation trade shows for months now, the 8-minute, 3-second jaunt was only it's first maiden flight, it has been flying ever since making the rounds flying at general aviation trade shows all over the country. If you can't even understand the article what credentials do you have that would make you an authority on flying?
      Larry
      • 3 Years Ago
      I want one ,,,Sure will cutdown on car rental fees
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