How often do you gaze up at passing aircraft as you sit stewing in a traffic jam? Now there is an answer, a street-legal car that converts to a plane in a minute thanks to United States company Terrafugia – a name derived from the Latin for “Escape the Earth”.
In the short term the answer is the street-legal two-seater Transition, with 100 hp Rotax petrol engine driving the rear wheels on the road and propeller for flying at 100 mph cruising with 410-mile range and 30-minute reserve. But already plans are advanced for the four-seater TF-X plug-in hybrid electric flying car with fly-by-wire vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities.
Designed to bring personal aviation to the world, the design will use modern electric motors combined with parallel power and control system architectures to achieve a higher level of safety than modern cars. Terrafugia says learning to safely operate the machine should take no more than five hours and it will have a flying range of at least 500 miles with similar controls to driving a car.
Able to fly in either “manual” or “automatic” modes between pre-selected approved landing zones or airports, it will have a comprehensive safety system including full-vehicle parachute system to be activated in an emergency if the operator believes the TF-X is incapable of auto-landing. If the operator becomes unresponsive, TF-X would automatically implement an emergency auto-land at the nearest airport.
The Transition gives the pilot the option to land and drive in bad weather and fits in a standard single car garage. In the advanced stages of final testing prior to early production, it can fly in and out of over 5,000 public airports in the U.S. and is legal to drive on public roads and highways.
The fixed-wing street-legal TF-X with electric ground drive and electric power assist on take-off and landing will be able to recharge its batteries either from its petrol engine or by plugging into electric car charging stations. But development of TF-X is expected to last 8-12 years. To be one of the first to own one, Terrafugia says consider reserving a Transition – it will be delivered long before the TF-X is ready, and Transition buyers will be given first option to buy TF-X. The anticipated base purchase price for the Transition is $279,000 with $10,000 refundable deposit.