A production prototype of the Terrafugia Transition, the plane you might one day be able to drive on the street, has completed the first phase of flight testing, taking the “flying car” one step closer to reality.
Phase 1 was conducted at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, and included such tests as power on and power off handling, aircraft stability, engine cooling, and optimizing propeller settings for various flight conditions. The company plans to conduct five more flight test phases. From there, the prototype will test on land, where the vehicle’s ground drivetrain and road handling can be evaluated, along with suspension and braking systems.
“It’s a real airplane,” said Terrafugia CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich in a release. “We’re flying it whenever we want, for as long as we want.”
The company says its first priority this summer is flight and drive testing in preparation for the certification processes of the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Transition must meet standards of both organizations before full production can begin.
The Transition was shown at the New York auto show in April, but has been in development since 2006. Classified as a multipurpose vehicle rather than a car, the Transition uses a carbureted 100-hp Rotax air-cooled boxer-four for flight and driving duties. Power is sent to the rear propeller through a carbon-fiber driveshaft, but can be rerouted to the wheels via a belt-type continuously variable transmission.
The company says the name Terrafugia is Latin for “escape the earth,” which seems appropriate for a vehicle not restricted to paved roads. But with the Transition’s starting price of $279,000, the flying car may still be a few years away for the common man.