World’s first flying car

The Terrafugia Transition is set to become the world’s first commercially available flying car. US company Terrafugia shows off a prototype "flying car" at the New York International Auto Show.

The Transition’s wings fold up automatically, just like a modern convertible roof at the push of a button by the ‘driver’ from inside the cockpit – enabling the Transition to be parked in a regular single car garage.

In car mode, it is 6.0m long, 2.3m wide and 2.0m high, making it less than a meter longer than Mercedes Benz S-class and about the same width, though half a meter taller. Power comes from a 1.4-litre Rotax 912 flat four cylinder engine that produces 75kW of power and runs on regular unleaded petrol, enabling the Transition to cruise in the air at 185km/h.

On the ground, the engine drives the rear wheels and returns fuel economy of 8.1L/100km, but no acceleration figures have been provided for the vehicle, which only weighs 650kg at “take-off”.

The production prototype successfully completed its first flight from Plattsburgh International Airport in New York three years after a retired US Air Force colonel completed the maiden eight-minute voyage in a Proof of Concept prototype.

The flying car incorporates automotive safety features such as a crumple zone and airbags for the driver and passenger, but was last year granted three groundbreaking exemptions by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

These included relaxation of the requirements for tyres, windscreen material and vehicle weight. The Transition uses a tough polycarbonate because traditional laminated glass would add significant weight and could fracture in the event of bird impact.

Significantly, Terrafugia which is apparently Latin for “escape from land”– chose an auto show to unveil the production vehicle rather than an aero show. Terrafugia Inc CEO and co-founder Carl Dietrich said the Transition was a significant step closer to being a commercial reality.