Terrafugia: Not Your Plane Old Car

It is only a matter of time before we start seeing planes on the road. And no, I’m not talking about planes landing on our highways. It may not be too far in the future when your neighbor might open his Bay Club Bayside home garage door in the morning and leave for work in his Terrafugia. This is an exotic vehicle that really flies, no really!

In June of 2011, the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) granted the American company all requested special exemptions to begin its Transition® certification testing program. The Terrafugia Transition® takes advantage of new FAA Light Sport Aircraft regulations with the twist of creating a dual-purpose vehicle. The first Transition® Roadable Aircraft sold to the public is expected to hit the road, or air, in 2012.

Another group of MIT graduates, no surprise, founded Terrafugia (ter-ra-FOO-gee-ah) in 2006. But the real surprise is that they have been able to rise so quickly to their challenges. Not only have we not found wings on cars driving down the road, but neither do we see automotive-style driver and passenger airbags on planes. Crash test safety is taken seriously and has been designed into the package. The NHTSA exemptions include the use of tires rated for highway speeds by weight but previously not allowed on multi-purpose vehicles; the use of polycarbonate windshields instead of laminated safety glass; and 110 pounds of weight allowance. This gives a Useful Load capacity of 460 lbs (210 kg).
The Transition® allows the convenience to fold and stow its wings from the cockpit, drive on any road surface, and deploy the wings for flight from an airport. No, you can’t take off from I-95, yet. The vehicle operates from a 100hp Rotax 912ULS engine, has a vehicle parachute option, modern avionics, and auto safety crash features. You can fly 425 nautical miles (490 miles, 787 km) and cruise at 93 kts (105 mph, 172 km/h). Fuel economy with the 23 gal tank is 5gph in cruise flight, or 35 mpg on the road. With a Sport Pilot license (20 hours of flight time and training), and a valid driver’s license, you are set to go almost anywhere. For $10,000 refundable deposit, you can reserve one.
Approximately 100 aircraft have been reserved so far with an anticipated base purchase price of $279,000. There are over 5000 airports in the USA, usually within a 30 mile radius of just about anywhere that you can fly in and out of. And you can park it in your garage. I’m thinking my commute to work just got easier and more fun than opening my garage door. And I won’t mind looking down on the traffic. Now if they find a way to combine some of the eco-friendly alternative engine technology found in some hybrids, this could really be a viable option for medium distance, earth-friendly, sustainable travel.

Post sponsored in part by: Forest Hills Real Estate

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