Human Achievement of the Day: Flying Cars

Whenever some new, ground-breaking technology makes headlines there is invariable the observer who seems only mildly impressed and then asks when we’re going to get flying cars. Well, ladies and gentleman, that day has come.

Terrafugia (which I believe translates to something like “earth fleer”), a company based near Boston, Mass., has begun manufacturing the Transition, a car that transforms into a private plane in just 20 seconds. According the makers of the Transition, it is less “a flying car” than it is a plane that can be driven on the road, which is what separates it (along with a host of technological capabilities) from previously failed attempts to create a flying car.

The Transition was designed by a team of MIT engineers, including husband and wife Carl and Anna Dietrich, who formed the Terrafugia company. The vehicle is street-legal, has airbags and a parachute, and while it only reaches speeds of 35 mph on land, it can fly about 500 miles at 105 mph in the air. Of course, anyone wishing to purchase a Transition vehicle, available next year for around $200-$250k, must first obtain a pilot’s license. While the car can be driven on most roadways, it must take off and land at public general aviation airports with 2,500 feet or more of runway.

Before flying, the pilot extends the wings and performs a standard preflight. The engine power is directed to the propeller for flight through a carbon fiber drive shaft.
After landing, the pilot activates the electro-mechanical wing folding mechanism from inside the cockpit. The wings fold, once at the root and once at the mid-span, and are stowed vertically on the sides of the vehicle in less than 30 seconds. Simultaneously, the engine power is directed to the wheels with a continuously variable transmission.

While it may not be in the price range for most people, the price is less than many new sports cars, including Ferraris, Aston Martins, or Lamborghinis, and is certainly more attainable than a private plane.

Jetson family, here we come!