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'Flying Car' Goes to Market

The Transition is labeled a "roadable aircraft" by the company that makes it, Terrafugia. Airborne, the $194,000 foldable-wing vehicle can travel 500 miles on a tank of gas and can be driven on roads when grounded. "It's probably a concept that people have been dreaming up since there have been airplanes and cars," says Dick Knapinski with the Experimental Aircraft Association. He says the potential success of Terrafugia is bolstered not only by advances in materials and propulsion technologies, but by a loosening of government regulations on private aircraft and pilot licensing. Knapinski notes that the number of licensed pilots in the United States has fallen by 25 percent since 1980, and five years ago the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established a new category of aircraft and license for sport aviation in an effort to revitalize enthusiasm for flying. Sport pilot licenses require fewer hours of training than private and commercial pilot licenses, while the medical requirements also are less rigorous. "What the FAA and the government say by having that rule is that these vehicles have the same level of complexity as motor vehicles," says Knapinski. "You fly in non-complex airspace at relatively low speed." Terrafugia's Richard Gersh says his company has taken deposits for over 40 Transitions and intends to commence deliveries next year.

January 22, 2009

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