Yes, it looks like the dream of the practical flying car is finally coming true. Ok, maybe it's more of a plane you can drive home from the airfield, but still. If you can pony up $279,000 and don't mind waiting a year while the company fulfills its 100-strong order book obligations, you, too, can commute George Jetson style.
Of course, the horizontally opposed 100-horsepower Rotax 912S engine that spins both the push propeller and the rear wheels won't sound like his cartoon bubble car, but it's tried, tested and true. It also uses the fuel of today – premium unleaded, please – and returns an impressive 35 miles per gallon on the highway, 20 mpg (5 gallons per hour at cruising speed) in the flyway.
The Transition returns those kind of numbers, in part, because of its light weight. Empty, the aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber construction weigh in at a svelte 970 lbs. Its road-going mileage is further enhanced because it's limited to a top speed of 65 miles per hour. Still, it gets bonus points for being the only vehicle we know that lists both airbags and a parachute as standard safety equipment.
Hit the jump for a full video inspection from our buds over at Engadget, along with Terrafugia footage of the production prototype in both driving and flying action, accompanied by the official press release from that event.
Major Milestone takes "Flying Car" Closer to First Delivery
Second Generation Transition® Street-Legal Airplane Takes Flight
The Transition® Street-Legal Airplane is now a significant step closer to being a commercial reality. The production prototype of the Transition® Street-Legal Airplane completed its successful first flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, NY on March 23, 2012. The same vehicle has also successfully conducted initial drive and conversion testing, demonstrating the Transition's capability to provide unmatched freedom, flexibility and fun in personal aviation. Developed by Terrafugia, Inc., the Transition® is a two seat personal aircraft capable of driving on roads and highways, parking in a single car garage, and flying with unleaded automotive fuel.
"The successful first flight of this Production Prototype Transition® marks a critical move toward initial production and first delivery," said COO Anna Mracek Dietrich. The Production Prototype phase of the Transition® program follows Proof of Concept work which included a flying, driving Proof of Concept vehicle and was completed in 2009. The Production Prototype program includes two vehicles and is being used to develop and inform the manufacturing tool-up and compliance program necessary to begin commercial deliveries. Terrafugia will continue its testing program in preparation for first delivery, which is expected to occur within the next year.
Regarding this first flight, Terrafugia CEO/CTO and co-founder Carl Dietrich said: "The first flight of the Transition® Production Prototype is a major milestone for Terrafugia. With this flight, the team demonstrated an ability to accomplish what had been called an impossible dream. We look forward to continuing to show that the challenges of bringing a practical street legal airplane to market can be overcome. This is a very exciting time for Terrafugia. We are on our way up – literally and figuratively!"
The Transition's first flight reached an altitude of 1400' above the ground and lasted eight minutes while staying in the vicinity of Plattsburgh International Airport. It demonstrated the controllability and safe operational characteristics of the aircraft. Six phases of flight testing are planned to continue development and demonstrate compliance to the Light Sport Aircraft standards.
Speaking about the first flight, Terrafugia Chief Test Pilot Phil Meteer said: "It's a remarkable vehicle both on the road and, now, in the air. When I drove it into the shop, literally from the road through the garage door, I was amazed that I had just flown it at Plattsburgh a few days before. A long-overdue mode of transportation and fun is just around the corner. I can't wait for the upcoming flight tests and the chance to 'wring it out', demonstrating how safe and enjoyable the Transition® is to fly."
The Transition® Production Prototype is on display at the New York International Auto Show April 6-15th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.
Terrafugia would like to thank Giora Guth, Chief Chase Pilot, as well as the teams at Plattsburgh International Airport, Sheltair Aviation, and Lawrence Municipal Airport, for their support of our ground and flight testing operations.
Terrafugia (terra-FOO-gee-ah), based in Woburn, MA, is a growing aerospace company founded by pilots and engineers from MIT and supported by a world-class network of advisors and private investors. The company name is Latin for "escape the earth." Terrafugia's mission is to design and deliver revolutionary, practical air and land vehicles that provide freedom, flexibility and fun to their loyal customers.
The Transition® is classified as a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).
Specifications can be found online at http://www.terrafugia.com/aircraft.html.