• Apr 5, 2012
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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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Days Ago
      Harry Hurt
      • 2 Days Ago
      LL, will you please get the h*** off the internet. AOL, why haven't you blocked LL?
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Harry Hurt
        They are even protecting LL by preventing giving a thumbs down. Must be paid advertising.
      • 2 Days Ago
      I want one. You can park it at home. Drive to the nearest airstrip. Take off. Fly to your destination and then land and drive to your destination. It uses premium auto fuel so you can gas up anywhere. 20 hours of training to get a sport pilot's license. Reasonably priced....... And no dealing with TSA.
      • 2 Days 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 .
        • 2 Days 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!
          • 2 Days 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.
      • 2 Days Ago
      OK, now how do you take care of the rocks this will kick up when on the road ? That prop blast is incredible. And talk about "blind" spots in the rear vision areas. Sorry no fool should be allowed to drive / fly something with only "20"hours behind the wheel / stick. Now on to the aspect of how do we accommodate all the take-offs and landings ? Chaos already reigns supreme on our highways. No courtesy from all but a few drivers, road rage the near norm. And last, what is going to happen when one of these aircraft collides with another aircraft up in the air ? Because there is going to be another crash when the aircraft hit the ground!
      • 2 Days Ago
      Granted, Not Practical.. Still need a Airport..can't land it on a Street or Hwy.. Maybe if Living out in the country? Can leaglly do 120 mph in the Air vs 60 on the Hwy.. and land on a Country Road.. I would prefer a Hot Air Baloon or Durageable.. Blimp type Vehicle. Just do 50 mph is good enough in congested areas.. Like California Freeways..at Rush Hours..
      • 2 Days Ago
      Wow! I worked for Mooney back in the seventies and you could get a stripped down version with retractable gear and variable pitch propfor around 35 thousand. Musta been alotta govt regs to get it that high!
      • 2 Days Ago
      really what this will do is save you a bundle on car rental fees at your destination
      • 2 Days Ago
      in twenty years when everybody owns flying cars we'll be laughing so hard at this video.
        • 2 Days Ago
        You've been watching too many STAR WARS movies.. Not until they make them Self Controlled and Accident Proof
      • 2 Days Ago
      Cant wait to fly the scaled down RC version.
      • 2 Days 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.
      • 2 Days Ago
      i would like to drive one. and maybe buy one.
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