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America’s Finally Done It: The First Street-Legal Flying Car Successfully Takes Flight

I never thought this day would come. The Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia Inc. has created — and successfully flown — America’s first flying car prototype! They call it the Transition Roadable Light Sport Aircraft (Transition LSA).

The prototype flying car has only flown at about 1,400 feet for about eight minutes with two passengers, a light carry-on bag, and golf clubs. As a comparison, commercial jets generally fly at 35,000 feet for hours at a time and can carry multiple passengers and cargo. But don’t get discouraged, because these are still the beginning stages of the Transition LSA, and surely more will happen with time and testing.

Are you as excited as I am? Well, don’t think about running out to buy one just yet, because these flying cars aren’t yet available for sale. However, you can put down a $10,000 deposit to guarantee that your butt’s in one when they are! Terrafugia expects to start selling them in 2013, and they will retail for around $279,000. Purchasers will also be required to have a minimum of 20 hours of flying time and complete/pass a test before they can actually own the Transition (it’s about the same as getting a driver’s license).

How does the Transition LSA work?

Terrafugia's Transition LSA

Terrafugia's Transition LSA

The Transition LSA does what its name claims: it transitions from a car into an airplane, and it only takes a matter of minutes. The design is a four-wheeled car with a steering wheel, gas and brake pedal, two seats, and two large wings that fold or expand at the touch of a button (click here to see a picture). As far as street-legal vehicles go, it looks very awkward when the wings are folded up but it looks like a small jet when the wings are expanded. The great thing about this car/plane is that it doesn’t require jet fuel to function. It uses automotive fuel and gets 35 MPG on the road and uses 5 GPH (gallons per hour) of fuel in the air.

Ideally, this type of flying car would be great for commuter traffic jams. I know anytime I’m driving into the city during rush hour, I think, “I wish my car had wings right now so I could bypass all the traffic!” Unfortunately, though, the Transition LSA won’t help you in this type of situation; it needs about 500 feet of runway to get off the ground, just like any other plane.

Is it practical?

Inventors have been trying to create a flying car for decades, because it’s one of those American dreams. But even though this is a totally new and sought after invention, it’s still a mystery whether or not the Transition is going to sell and be profitable. The aviation market has been in decline since the 1980s because of rising fuel prices. Also, generally speaking, fewer people are learning to fly nowadays because it’s just so darn expensive.

The Transition LSA has been a work in progress for Terrafugia Inc. since 2006, and it’s going to be an expensive machine to build. They’ve had their share of setbacks with design issues and part manufacturers, but they are finally confident about the prototype. The company presented it at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, hoping to gain the attention of potential buyers and investors.

For more information, check out this video of a Transition in action:

I feel like all of my childhood dreams are coming true, from jet packs to flying cars! I have a feeling that when I’m old and gray, these new inventions will be the norm and I will tell my grandkids stories about the good ol’ days when cars couldn’t fly and the internet was only used on home computers as a dial-up service connected through WIRES. It could quite possibly freak them out!

What are your thoughts about the Transition LSA? Do you think there is a market for this type of vehicle, or will this be a big flop in the automotive and aviation world? Would you invest in this company or buy the roadable aircraft for yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit to lotprocars.


jforbes

Jen is a QLP data entry specialist. She enjoys researching and writing about new gadgets, trends and current events. Her favorite pastime is shopping and she considers herself a Food Network/HGTV junkie. Jen spends most of her free time hanging out with friends and family, planning her wedding, and spoiling her Pomeranian, Roxy. Someday she wants to travel the world and learn more about other cultures.

Comments

  1. Jana Quinn

    First things first, I WANT ONE SO BAD.

    Second thing – it uses five gallons per hour in the air? If you’re able to get to places as the crow flies, some routes could be considerably cheaper to fly than to drive.

    The most interesting development I’ll be looking at will be the legal ramifications. I know it’s “street-legal,” but what about air legal? Will current small aircraft laws apply? How much room does it need to land? How the hell is “right of way” going to work?

    Who are these cars going to be marketed to? Bored, rich people? The 279K price tag is pretty steep, but that could come down with time. Also, the 20 hours of flying time is ridiculously low; I think it should be dramatically more than that for a driver’s license, too, but that’s another rant for another day.

    Overall, Jen, great topic! I’m left wondering exactly if this flying car will be a novelty for the 1% or a true Jetson-type commuter vehicle someday.

    • Jen

      I want one too! You have a great point about the “air-legal” aspect of it. Right now, since not everyone has one it probably isn’t an issue. But like you said, in time they could become more affordable to the general public, so what then? That being said, it terrifies me that this could become available to the general public. It’s bad enough people frequently drive while intoxicated, I can’t even imagine the amount of accidents when they fly drunk…this idea becomes worse and worse the more I think about it, YIKES!

      • Jaimie Smith

        The whole driving drunk thing brings up a good point. Are there going to be cops that can fly around and catch “drunk flyers”? because if not, that is what people could do to escape getting a dui. Which for those ppl is good I guess, but for everyone else it’s bad. Like Jana mentioned, I am curious as to all the laws that are going to be enforced for this flying car.

        This just really fascinates me, I can’t wait till 2pm when I can watch the video. You did a great job covering this topic Jen! Bravo!

        • Jaimie Smith

          I was actually just able to watch the video. It looks to me it works better and is maybe geared more towards traveling. As opposed to driving or getting a ride to the airport, then flying, then having someone have to pick you up from the airport or catching a cab, this could be a little more convenient. This just blows my mind.

        • Jen

          Thanks girl! I can’t wait to learn more about laws and how they will be enforced.

  2. Bret Bonnet

    I’d hate to see this thing on the highway. That, and can you imagine taking a Chicago pot-hole in this thing? You’d destroy it.

    • Jen

      It’s a total eyesore!

      • Eric

        If they ever need a pot-hole-ridden stretch of road to test that…there’s a really great (and by “great,” I mean “terrifying”) stretch of asphalt on Western Ave. in Chicago.

        Thing looks like a Geo Metro that managed to grow wings. Can’t say that it’s a marvel aesthetically, but there’s a definite novelty in the self-sufficience of the concept. I’m sure your friends and family would love to hear they’re finally off the hook from having to drive around and drive around the airport when you need to be picked up. :)

        I like it. Heck, if I’d the money, I’d buy one. Why not. Pair this up with a GPS, spot that bumper-to-bumper traffic ahead, and take off before it becomes a problem.

        • Jen

          This would be great to have for last minute out of state trips too, like funerals and stuff. And like you said it would be a heck of a lot easier than having someone to pick you up and drop you off at the airport.

  3. Cybernetic SAM

    WOW! That is pretty freakin’ awesome! I love when they release news stories about these new and innovative inventions!!!! I like that we are in the generation where we can read modern science fiction and say, “yep! we have that technology! and it is the first of its kind!” I would rather be a part of humanity’s history when we were are at a high point of discovery, not unlike the industrial and golden age. Not to mention inventions like this in marvelous science help me feel less ashamed and feel as though generationally we are redeeming ourselves as a species that still says and does idiotic and unforgivable things. Science makes me feel hopeful and happy (most of the time) :)

    • Jen

      I love reading about these new inventions too! We have a great generation and I have faith we will keep inventing and improving new technology. :)

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    Oh man…at this rate, the 2015 of Back to the Future II is going to be a reality. I’m so excited.

  5. Rachel

    This is crazy! It’s too bad it’s basically just a small airplane that can fold up into a car … we need hover technology, stat! :) Thanks for this really interesting post, Jen; definitely very cool, even if it’s still too “out there” for everyday use.

    • Jen

      It is just a small airplane with foldable wings! You’re totally right, hover technology would be way cooler!

  6. Amy Swanson

    Very cool stuff to hear, Jen! I think I’ll wait for a few models to come out before I buy one, make sure they’ve got all the bugs fixed in it ;) Maybe this way I wouldn’t freak out about flying, since I’d be in control! Hmm… this just got tempting.

    Thanks for keeping us informed and up-to-date!

    • Jen

      Good idea Amy, I would do the same and wait until it’s flawless!

  7. david k waltz

    There was a Bruce Willis movie where he was a cab driver in a futuristic society, and I just cannot imagine that 3-D traffic will be intuitive or safe to navigate.

    • Jill Tooley

      That’s one of my favorite movies, David! It’s called “The Fifth Element.” :)

      But I agree with you. Not sure how they’ll regulate air traffic on a larger scale!

    • Jen

      The Fifth Element is on of my all time favorite movies too! Actually when I first heard about the flying car, before seeing a picture or video of it, Dallas Corbin’s cab is what I thought of. Too funny you mentioned it!

      I can’t imagine we will ever see that type of “3-D traffic” in our life time though. Bummer.

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Jill Tooley

    Cool writeup, Jen! I can’t wait until they develop it even further and make it a bit more attractive. It seems like it’d be a BEAST to navigate on the roads, too.

    But progress is progress, in my opinion! :D

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