A company offering what it bills as a flying car has completed a test flight using a full-scale prototype. Terrafugia says it has already received 100 orders for its $279,000 Transition vehicle.
The vehicle, officially dubbed a roadable aircraft, can be used as a normal car running on regular unleaded fuel, and is legal to drive on the highways. In only 15 seconds you can unfold the wings and take off into the air, albeit only from an airport with 2,500 feet of runway (except in Alaska where you can simply go skywards anywhere.) You will need a separate sport pilot license to use it in this way.
Terrafugia (Latin for “escape the Earth”) received regulatory clearance for the Transition as a road vehicle in 2010 and has already completed road-based testing. It had previously tested a flight test on a “proof of concept” model, but has now has a successful test with a model that’s effectively the same as that which will go on sale.
The eight minute flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York saw the vehicle reach 1,400 feet in a test designed solely to prove the vehicle could be safely controlled. There’ll be another six stages of testing before it can be considered safe for public use.
The plane’s normal flight speed is 105 miles per hour, though Wired notes that this is still a major advantage over road travel when you take into account the ability to travel by a more direct route than on the ground.
Terrafugia says the most likely audience is people who need to make regular journeys of a few hundred miles and are willing to pay for the convenience of not having to worry about limo services or car hire once they land. It’s also promoting the vehicle as offering flexibility as users can continue a journey even if they are grounded by bad weather.
The customers who’ve pre-ordered have paid a deposit of $10,000. To date the vehicle has mainly been marketed at existing pilots, though the company is now looking at a wider audience and says it’s had reservations from retiree couples looking to sightsee in style.