July 2, 2012
By Sarah Brown
Woburn, Mass.-based startup Terrafugia announced that its Transition airplane-car hybrid has completed Phase 1 testing. This represents the first flights of the airplane outside of the airport environment. Photo courtesy Terrafugia.
The Transition “street-legal airplane” has completed Phase 1 of flight testing, Terrafugia announced June 28, representing the first flights of the production prototype outside of the airport environment.
The Woburn, Mass.-based startup gathered telemetry data from the testing, which included power-on and power-off handling, aircraft stability, engine cooling evaluation, and propeller setting optimization in various flight conditions, according to a media release. Flights from Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, N.Y lasted as long as an hour and a half, Terrafugia Vice President of Business Development Richard Gersh told AOPA.
"It's a real airplane; we're flying it whenever we want, for as long as we want," said Terrafugia CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich in the release. Gersh explained that previous testing had kept the aircraft in sight; this spring, employees watched the Transition take off, join up with the chase plane, and depart to the west.
“We knew it was going to fly, and it did,” he said, adding that the airplane’s endurance is basically defined by the amount of gas in the tank.
While test pilot Phil Meteer gathered data for the company in the different phases of flight, he also got a feel for the airplane. He’s been working on landing techniques for the unusual craft, which has four wheels, with the rear wheels set farther aft than tricycle-gear pilots will be accustomed to; Gersh said Meteer has said that “it flies like a nice little airplane.”
“He has indicated that he is very comfortable flying it and is very comfortable putting our customers through a training program,” Gersh said.
The production prototype is now moving into drive testing, and the company said five more flight test phases are planned. Gersh said Terrafugia’s focus now is to get the Transition to production. That means the airplane’s presence at events such as the upcoming EAA AirVenture is still to be determined. Terrafugia forewent attending the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In this spring in favor of the New York International Auto Show to reach new audiences.
Terrafugia has more than 100 orders for the Transition, Gersh said; the date of first deliveries will be dependent on the remaining test phases. If everything goes flawlessly with testing, he added, deliveries could start as early as in a year, but he said the company was not committed to that delivery date. The startup has delayed deliveries from previous estimates.
Terrafugia has posted a video of Phase 1 testing here.
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