In 1903, The Wright Brothers lighted up the skies with the first airplane. Just about a decade after that, other pioneer men, all around the world, began chasing the dream of the flying car. There has been plenty attempts to achieve the goal of mass producing a flying car but all have failed. These men, with the primary idea in their heads, tried hard to achieve this goal but no one ever really managed to develop a reliable flying car. Some even risked their lives in testing their inventions. However, they opened a new door for others who want to accomplish a seemingly impossible task. They began the idea that a car could be built to fly, and inspired a new group of technologists. In this paper I will discuss the innovative development in technology regarding the Terrafugia’s Transition. With advances in lightweight material, computer modeling, and computer controlled aircraft, the dream of flying your car is close to becoming reality.
In a news article from flight international, reporter John Croft introduced a car with wings, “First on the yuletide list could be the Terrafugia Transition. Woburn, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia, a company started in 2006 by aerospace and business school graduates of the Massachusetts institute of Technology.”(Croft, 2008) Terrafugia is the latest company responsible for the car that can fly like a regular plane, but then land, fold up its wings and drive away. Terrafugia’s Transition 2 is the name they have given this car/plane. “Terrafugia is a Latin term that means escape from Earth.” (Croft, 2008) and, “The first successful test flight was on March 5, 2009, in Plattsburgh, New York.” (Klotz, 2008)
The Transition is a two seater plane that with a touch of a button can change into a road legal car in just seconds! A lot of people call this, “The Flying Car” but, the Terrafugia team likes to call the Transition a “roadable aircraft.” They call this a “roadable aircraft” because it is flown by licensed pilots. It is also referred as a Light Sport Aircraft. Inside the Transition looks like a small cockpit. Everything that is found inside a plane and a car is combined into one vehicle. When it is on the ground and the wings are folded up, “the plane measures 2.1 meters tall, 2 meters wide and 5.7 meters long. As an airplane, the craft is 1.9 meters tall, 8.4 meters wide and 5.8 meters long. It has a 100-horsepower Rotax 912S engine, which runs on regular unleaded gasoline.” (Barber, 2009) After landing, the driver can punch in a four digit code that will allow for the wing-folding to happen. The wings are then stored vertically on the sides of this vehicle. This all happens in less than 30 seconds (Klotz, 2009). When the driver decides to be a pilot all he has to do is flip a switch, allowing the wings to extend and the engine power is automatically directed toward the propeller in the back. The transition can take off and land pretty much anywhere. It drives on four wheels and can fit inside a household garage.
Terrafugia’s CEO and founder, Carl Dietrich, said that the Transition “changes the world of personal mobility” and that “travel now becomes Terrifugia’s Transition 3 hassle-free, integrated land-air experience.”(Croft, 2008) Matthew DeBord from Big Money Magazine says, “The Transition’s predicted price tag will be near $200,000 and although that’s steep by car standards, it’s a bargain in the new small-plane market.” (DeBord, 2009)
The Transition has clearly caught the American eye. Right now, airframes can be reserved for $10,000 each as a down payment. The Transition already has 40 people on its waiting list. Many buyers, according to Dietrich, “are those in near retirement who enjoy flying.”(Barber,2009) Dietrich also stated in an interview with CNN that, “the Transition will be ready for delivery in 2011.”
If this innovation will be widely used by the people in the near future, there may be a need for new traffic rules and policies regarding driving such a car. Changes in the traffic policies would be needed to ensure the safety of everyone on the road and above it. There will also be a need for wider highways so that pilots/drivers can freely extend the Transition’s wings when the pilot/driver wants to fly the vehicle. An alternative for it would be a specific location where the Transition can extend and fold its wings.
In order to accommodate the Transition’s change in modes of driving or flying, a wider highway must be built. A possible effect on this would be an increase in traffic during the building of a wider highway. This will be a nuisance at first and this may not be easily done because road widening is not that easy or cheap to accomplish.
On the other hand, travel will be a lot easier for Transition owners. It provides a new option for travel that is not available for two separate vehicles. If you are flying and it starts to rain you can easily land and continue transportation by driving. On the other hand, if you do not want to get jammed by traffic, you can choose to fly towards your destination.
Also, its use on unleaded gas is safer and cheaper than using other types of gasoline. It is more environment-friendly than other gas. It also means that travelling with the Transition is possible for the people in the near future because the gas it uses is cheap.
Barber, Nick. “Flying Car Takes to the Skies…and Roads.” NetworkWorld.com. (18 Mar 2009). 27 March 2009 < http://www.networkworld.com/slideshows/2009/031809-flying-car-takes-to-the.html>
Croft, John. “The Ultimate Yuletide Surprise: A Car with Wings.” FlightGlobal.com. (16 Dec 2008). 27 March 2009 < http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2008/12/16/320095/the-ultimate-yuletide-surprise-a-car-with-wings.html>
Klotz, Irene. “Flying Car Lifts off in Maiden Flight.” Discovery.com (19 Mar 2009). 27 March 2009 <http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/03/19/flying-car-flight.html>
“First Flight Video Press.” YouTube.com 20 Mar 2009. 27 Mar 2009 < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smGmrpn2Vrk>