Terrafugia petition for design exemptions supported

December 21, 2010

AOPA has submitted comments supporting a petition by Terrafugia Inc. seeking a temporary exemption from several federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) requirements for its Transition roadable aircraft or “flying car.”

In a Dec. 15 letter to the Department of Transportation, AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman expressed AOPA’s support for Terrafugia’s assertion that the exemption was justified because the Transition would contribute to the safety of flight in general aviation aircraft. The Transition would also advance development of both light-weight, fuel-efficient automobile and light aircraft technology, with benefits for the environment and the economy.

The petition was published in the Federal Register Nov. 16.

“Terrafugia seeks exemption from the FMVSS requirements for tire selection and rims for motor vehicles (FMVSS No. 110), electronic stability control systems (FMVSS No. 126), glazing materials (FMVSS No. 205), and occupant crash protection, specifically advanced air bags (FMVSS No. 208). The basis for the application is that compliance would cause substantial economic hardship to a manufacturer that has tried in good faith to comply with the standard,” said the notice.

The Transition advances safety of flight because it offers pilots flying under visual flight rules “a new alternative” course of action when confronted with instrument meteorological conditions in flight. The vehicle “allows them to divert to the nearest airport and continue the trip on the ground,” reducing the risk of a pilot losing control when ground references are lost, Hackman wrote, adding that loss of aircraft control when ground references are lost is “a leading cause of weather-related accidents.”

The aircraft, which gets 27 mpg in the air and 30 mpg on the ground, was featured in this AOPA Live video.

The Transition’s dual uses as an aircraft and ground vehicle required application of both FAA regulations and standards for light sport aircraft and federal motor vehicle safety standards for automobiles.  

The petition comment period closed Dec.16.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.