April 2, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
A production prototype of the Terrafugia Transition flying car, a combination street-legal car and airplane, flew the traffic pattern at Plattsburg, N.Y., on March 23, the company announced on April 2. It marked the first time a Terrafugia prototype has flown around the traffic pattern. Earlier flights of a proof-of-concept aircraft were made above the runway at Plattsburgh in 2009. That model has been retired.
The company announced the flight on national morning television shows. AOPA has previously reported on the Terrafugia. The two-seat aircraft had been expected to fly during EAA AirVenture 2011 but was not ready in time.
“The successful first flight of this production prototype Transition marks a critical move toward initial production and first delivery,” said Terrafugia Chief Operating Officer Anna Mracek Dietrich. The aircraft will be offered as a light sport aircraft. The prototype carried test equipment and is heavier than the aircraft that will be delivered to customers. A company official said the vehicle will meet weight goals of 1,430 pounds, a special exemption that the official said was granted by the FAA because of safety features. The normal weight of a light sport aircraft is 1,320 pounds, but can be as much as 1,430 pounds for an amphibious light sport aircraft.
The aircraft flew at 1,400 feet agl and was conducted by Chief Test Pilot Phil Meteer. The flight lasted eight minutes.
The Terrafugia Transition, as it is called, is intended to cruise at 93 knots carrying a useful load of 460 pounds. Useable fuel is 23 gallons. On the road, the company predicts the two-place car, with its wings folded vertically like a bird, will get 35 miles per gallon.
The craft, one of two prototypes built, was taken to the New York International Auto show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City for display from April 6 to 15.
Terrafugia is based in Woburn, Mass., and was founded by pilots and engineers from MIT. It has a number of advisors and investors. A company statement said it is hoped to begin deliveries in a year, which would mean early 2013.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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