“Flying car is not something where you can see some traffic ahead, and hit the button and hop right over it.” said Carl Dietrich while talking to US Media.
The vehicle he’s talking about is a production prototype for one of the first FAA–approved “roadable aircraft”: A flying car that’s capable of being driven legally to the local airport, unfolding its wings, and taking off and cruising at 100 m.p.h., before landing on a runway and driving you to your final destination—all while delivering 35 m.p.g. on the highway, and 20 m.p.g. in the air.
According to available reports “the impetus behind this futuristic product was a 2004 FAA rule change—the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Rule—which allowed a streamlined process for pilot certification and a modification in light plane build standards. Foreseeing that this revision might usher in a new wave of simpler air travel, Dietrich and four other grad school classmates, private pilots all, decided to explore bringing a new product to market, one that would overcome the biggest obstacles to entering the world of private aviation: fear and difficulty of traveling in inclement weather, high costs of ownership, and lengthy travel times to and from the nation’s network of regional airports.”
As they analyzed the market research data, the partners realized that their solution had to include roadability: the capacity to drive the plane on public streets. This would mitigate problems with bad weather, as the plane could simply land and finish its route over roads. It would limit costs, as the plane could be parked at home, precluding the need for on-site airport storage. And with a public airport within 30 minutes of most Americans, the ability to go direct from point of origin to final destination would reduce the number of steps—and concomitant delays in transferring vehicles, passengers, and baggage—to one. “At the majority of these 5000 public use airports,” Dietrich says, “a pilot of one of our vehicles—once issued a use permit—can just drive up, swipe through the gate, taxi, and take off. You don’t even have to talk to anyone.”
Terrafugia has already garnered 100 $10,000 deposits on its vehicle, which will start at $279,000 when it’s projected to go on sale next year. Nearly 95% of those customers are current pilots, which aligns with the company’s business plan of servicing existing members of the general aviation market. But in order to explore the potential for expansion beyond this base, the company will be flapping the Transition’s wings, and handing out thousands of consumer surveys, at the Javits Convention Center all next week.