Aircraft

Terrafugia flying car completes first phase of flight testing

Terrafugia flying car complete...
Terrafugia flying car during Phase I flight test (Photo: Terrafugia)
Terrafugia flying car during Phase I flight test (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition parked on the runway (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition parked on the runway (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition coming in for a landing after a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition coming in for a landing after a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
Terrafugia flying car during Phase I flight test (Photo: Terrafugia)
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Terrafugia flying car during Phase I flight test (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives past a house in the suburbs (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives past a house in the suburbs (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition taking off for a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition taking off for a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition folding its wings to be driven as a licensed street vehicle (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition folding its wings to be driven as a licensed street vehicle (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition parked in a standard one-car garage (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition parked in a standard one-car garage (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives casually down a suburban street (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives casually down a suburban street (Photo: Terrafugia)
Topping the tank of the Terrafugia Transition with premium unleaded gasoline at a neighborhood service station (Photo: Terrafugia)
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Topping the tank of the Terrafugia Transition with premium unleaded gasoline at a neighborhood service station (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition in flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition in flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition climbing into the air (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition climbing into the air (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition flying level during a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition flying level during a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition parked, wings folded, on an airport runway (Photo: Terrafugia)
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The Terrafugia Transition parked, wings folded, on an airport runway (Photo: Terrafugia)

Six years after the initial announcement that Terrafugia, Inc. would develop a "roadable airplane," the Transition has completed the first phase of flight testing. The flight testing, carried out at Plattsburgh International Airport in northern New York State, assessed the light sport aircraft's full performance envelope. The Transition prototype was reported to perform "exceptionally well," allowing the testing to be carried out quickly.

The Terrafugia Transition is classified as a light sport aircraft, and is also designed to meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards. In addition to working as a fine aircraft, the Transition can be legally driven on the road by folding the wings after landing.

The Terrafugia Transition folding its wings to be driven as a licensed street vehicle (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition folding its wings to be driven as a licensed street vehicle (Photo: Terrafugia)

The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives casually down a suburban street (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives casually down a suburban street (Photo: Terrafugia)

A light sport aircraft is defined by the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) as a fixed-wing airplane seating at most two people, with a maximum take-off weight of 1,320 lbs (600 kg), a maximum speed in level flight of 138 mph (222 km/h), a stall speed under 51 mph (82 km/h), and having a single engine and an unpressurized cockpit. The light sport category is nicely wedged between conventional light planes and ultralight planes (weighing less than 254 lbs (115 kg) empty weight and capable of flying no faster than 63 mph (101 kph), providing the opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to fly in a reasonably capable aircraft without requiring full noncommercial training and medical clearance.

The Terrafugia Transition in flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition in flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)

The Transition actually has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 lbs (650 kg). An exemption for the extra 110 pounds (50 kg) above the usual weight limit was granted by the FAA so that the Transition can incorporate modern automotive-style safety features currently unavailable in other light aircraft.

The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)

Phase I flight testing of a light sport aircraft in the United States involves determining performance and maneuverability characteristics at speed, weight, center of gravity, and altitude variations under which the Transition is intended to be flown. Among the performance characteristics tested were power on and power off handling, aircraft stability, engine cooling evaluation, and propeller setting optimization in various flight conditions.

The Terrafugia Transition coming in for a landing after a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)
The Terrafugia Transition coming in for a landing after a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)

Five more flight test phases are planned, with the goal of double-certifying the Transition as a Light Sport Aircraft and a drivable vehicle by the end of the (northern hemisphere) summer. Road tests ahead include exploring the ground drivetrain, tuning the suspension, and optimizing braking and road handling.

Topping the tank of the Terrafugia Transition with premium unleaded gasoline at a neighborhood service station (Photo: Terrafugia)
Topping the tank of the Terrafugia Transition with premium unleaded gasoline at a neighborhood service station (Photo: Terrafugia)

First customer delivery of a Terrafugia Transition is expected to occur in late 2012. While the expected price of the Transition continues to rise, from the original estimate of US$148,000 to the present estimate of US$279,000, the commercial availability of this historic aircraft/car is eagerly awaited in the sport aviation community. I know I would love to have one!

The video below shows footage taken from various test flights of the Terrafugia Transition production prototype.

Source: Terrafugia, Inc.

30 comments
MAQ
A marginal 2 seat light-sport, vfr only, aircraft and a ridiculous 2 seat car (try parking that puppy in your local WalMart lot) for only $300,00? Give me a break! And yes, I've owned many aircraft and many cars over the past 45 years. Just because it can be built, doesn't mean it should be built.
NK Fro
MAQ, the people that own this vehicle are not likely to be taking it on a beer run to Walmart or anywhere else.
Slowburn
Any roadable airplane, or flyable car is not going to be a great performer as a car or plane. But given the limits placed on the plane by the aircraft classification aside from fuel consumption it's not bad and I have driven cars with worse rear vision.
yinfu99
I dont see this a flying car, more so a compact aircraft. A compact aircraft is a cool idea, thought the price needs to come down for a larger market. I didnt notice if it was, but were this a VTOL craft it would be much more useful and marketable.
Charles Gage
I will give them technical credit for being able to comply with both FAA and DOT regs in one vehicle (no small feat), but to me, as a pilot, it is neither fish nor fowl. It doesn't make a particular great car nor a particularly great airplane. It's another solution looking for a problem. $30,000? Sure. $300,000? Not a chance. There's another company in the Netherlands making a driveable gyrocopter that isn't any better priced but it certainly doesn't look like the Terra-whatever's Studebaker looks - call the PAL-V. Much slicker looking, nice presentation, similar performance. http://pal-v.com/ I don't know - this seems like a combination toaster and quadraphonic stereo system. I wish them luck but I wouldn't bet my 401(k) on it.
Richard Dicky Riddlebarger
It could go to a $500,00 price tag with more over-runs putting into the range for some government agency to bid on it.
PeetEngineer
Would love to own one of these, it would enable a very special kind of freedom, even if it can't exceed 110 knots. The problem is, I'm still dreaming of the day when I can go and buy a 1970s Cessna 172, let alone a brand new flying car.
PeetEngineer
and @ Yinfu, the Moller Skycar might be up your alley. A VTOL flying car that's been in development for 40-plus years, in comparison, Terrafugia's development is lightspeed fast.
Larry Clement
As toys go, it certainly isn't the highest-priced choice, compared to boats, mtorhomes, and other airplanes. Just look at the number of people with a $200K deposit to make one sub-orbital flight. The Terrafuga doesn't excite me enough to buy one, but I certainly applaud those who choose to do so. It's their money and they are free to spend it as they wish. Kudos to all who have worked for years to develop the Terrafuga
Dennis Roberts
@PeetEngineer, I hope that was a joke. The Moller Skycar isn't an aircraft or a car. It's a device to drain cash from investors pockets.