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Terrafugia pulls US plug on Transition flying car

'Massive' layoffs and change of direction reported

Editor's note: This article was updated February 17 with additional information.

Amid “massive” layoffs reported by Forbes magazine February 16, Terrafugia abruptly pulled the U.S. plug for the two-person Transition, an FAA-approved light sport aircraft with folding wings.

The Terrafugia Transition is a two-person light sport aircraft. Photo courtesy of Terrafugia.

The magazine reported that “80 to 100 employees at the company’s headquarters” in Woburn, Massachusetts, “have been let go, and that Terrafugia’s intellectual property and further development of the Transition” LSA “are being moved to China by owner Zhejiang Geely Holding Group” with plans to discontinue U.S. operations in the coming months.

The company was founded by Carl Dietrich in 2006 with a group of fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates as the first practical flying car since Moulton Taylor’s Aerocar of the 1950s. AOPA previously reported that Geely Holding completed the Terrafugia acquisition in 2017 in an effort to expand Geely’s growing portfolio of personal transportation companies.

The latest setback for the Transition flying car occurred just a few weeks after the FAA granted a special LSA airworthiness certificate for the twin-boom, pusher-prop design on January 26. The measure allowed the company to produce the flying four-wheeled craft for aviation purposes in the United States, though it was still awaiting federal approval to drive on public roadways.

The pathway to the sky was not a direct route, and the Terrafugia Transition needed regulatory help along the way. AOPA supported the company’s bid for an FAA exemption granted in 2016 that allowed the Transition to fly as an LSA at a gross weight significantly above the 1,320 pounds otherwise allowed. The exception accommodated the heft of the folding wing mechanism and additional safety equipment more common to road vehicles.

A Rotax 912iS Sport fuel-injected engine can propel the Transition through the air at 100 mph; Dynon SkyView avionics provide flight deck familiarity; and an airframe parachute rounds out the aviation safety package. NBC reported a projected price of around $400,000 in 2018, about $100,000 more than AOPA reported in 2015.

Unique car-like features include four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, a circular steering wheel/yoke mechanism, and folding wings that allow the aircraft to tuck into a one-car garage. However, the multipurpose vehicle pays a steep price for its versatility and tips the scales at 1,800 pounds because of Department of Transportation automobile safety and environmental rules.

Terrafugia responded February 17 to AOPA's prior calls and emails, saying that the company was “not commenting at present.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Content Producer
AOPA Media Content Producer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Light Sport Aircraft, Aircraft Manufacturers, Single-Engine Piston

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