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?
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!