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The Transition

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On: Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 9:30AM | By: Benjamin Roussey

The Transition

The concept of a flying car has been around for decades and popularized by cartoons, such as The Jetsons, and movies, such as The 5th Element. The competition to achieve this milestone first has been covertly competitive. Perhaps you saw the 60 Minutes episode on June 14th, 2006 where the inventor Paul Moller from Davis, CA. showed off his red flying car that could elevate itself with four powerful rotating blades. Perhaps it has not been a commercial success because the car aspect of this machine is and was lacking. Well, the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT may have a cool alternative and it may be a little less expensive, as well. Unlike Moller’s invention, this car or airplane has wings and it is called The Transition. Huge differences are that it does not have the speed or power of Moller’s machine, and Moller’s flying aircraft can take off and land vertically.

The Transition is still in the testing stages but it has flown for 37 seconds. This machine is powered by a 100 hp Rotax engine that receives 30 mpg on the road while burning normal unleaded gasoline. The Transition can hold 20-gallons of fuel and fly for 450 miles. The flight speed is about 115 mph. The operator can easily transfer from flight to drive mode and vice versa in about half a second. This is accomplished because the driver can easily fold up the wings and transfer the engine power from the back-sitting propeller to the front wheels.

These MIT engineers have tossed around Terrafugia as their company name. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has paved the way for this type of machine by calling it, or them, Light Sport Aircraft. The FAA creating this category had nothing to do with Terrafugia’s Transition. In addition, you do not have to worry about spending a year of your time, or more, and tens of thousands of dollars to fly a machine of this prototype since the FAA created a new “sport pilot” option, which is not as challenging to acquire as a normal pilot’s license. For instance, only about 20 hours of flying time in the Transition is demanded to step through this licensing door.

Carl Dietrich is CEO and co-founder of Terrafugia. He is mightily impressed with the FAA’s reasoning and unintended cooperation. The Transition is perfect for people who are training in rural communities. The main hurdle is not science, bureaucracy or engineering, it is practical. Most small airports in the U.S. do not have any car rental accommodations. But this is a minor impediment; machines like the Transition could bring much more traffic to these almost forgotten airports.

There are so many possibilities with a machine such as this. You can save so much more time in The Transition rather than in a car since you can fly over crowded roads, highways, rivers, mountains, and for instance, a city to visit a friend on the other side. Since you are higher up, it is easier to detect bad weather so you can land and wait for Mother Nature’s fury to pass, perhaps fly around it, or land and drive through it.

If you want one of your own, you can possibly purchase one in 2011. Terrafugia is also accepting down payments now.

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James Roberts | 11:11AM (Tue, Apr 20, 2010)

Totally cool! Any Idea how much one of these bad boys will cost? I bet the insurance is going to be a little more than my standard car!


steeev | 11:19AM (Tue, Apr 20, 2010)

Jimmy, this is the new race. The TT was stupid once I test drove one.

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