• Apr 5th 2012 at 12:45PM
  • 195
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:

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 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.
      • 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.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Okay. It's cool but one thing I notice is only one person can fit in the car! What good is it if you someone can't ride with you? Where's the room for anything you might want to store in it like things you purchase? The price is ridiculous and how much does it cost to fuel? Do you have to fly in and out of the airports to use it? Unless it can be mass produced at an affordable price for the masses, it's just a toy for the rich. And if thje masses could someday afford it, then how do you navigate the skies if they become as crowed as the road?
        • 3 Years Ago
        it would require a special licences can you imagaine an illegal alien flying that thing or a 89 year old cpl I dont think so or put a family of 100 into that thing or a 909 lb human good luck like chuck
      • 3 Years Ago
      Old news, it was on National TV on Tuesday
      • 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.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Astro, Judy, Elroy? Jetsons here we come...
      • 3 Years Ago
      I want one ,,,Sure will cutdown on car rental fees
      • 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.
      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..
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hasnt this been tryed already ?? "Didnt Fly" the first couple times,Dont think it will this time either
      • 3 Years Ago
      really what this will do is save you a bundle on car rental fees at your destination
      • 3 Years Ago
      the only problem I have with it is what would be the rules like who has right of way. Right now a very few planes have had near misses and they have radar and people watching them and controling thier landings who is going to control these planes. Right now we have rules for lanes and directions you can travel so we do not run into each other and still have accidents if you have one in the air you are talking about airplane parts flying all over and more people dying sorry do not like the idea of so many people in the air. But I do like the idea and if they can make it safe I would like it .
        • 3 Years Ago
        rini1946 In the video within this article, it states that this aircraft can only be operated (take off and landing) from an airport. Therefore it would be controlled by the air traffic controllers!
          • 3 Years Ago
          The problem is, most airports don't have air traffic controllers. It's up to the pilots' to know what they're doing. If a flying car is produced on a large scale, you have the issue of too many pilot's in the air with limited training.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X