It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Flying Car!

Terrafugia_transition.jpgNot quite Doc Brown’s DeLorean, but it flies. Image: Terrafugia.

Once relegated to the realm of science fiction books or movies with Michael J. Fox, the flying car could be commercially tenable sooner than you might think.

Terrafugia has successfully test-flown the Transition, an airplane with four wheels that folds up into something resembling an origami car with a propeller.

The Transition will be able to achieve highway speeds and runs on unleaded gasoline, so drivers wouldn’t have to find that ever-elusive aviation gas station. 

According to the Telegraph of London, Terrafugia has already convinced the FAA to give them a special exemption so they can still fit in the lightest airplane weight class but have the necessary safety requirements of cars. The company says it hopes to start selling them to the public in 2011.

The Transition is expected to cost nearly $200,000 and 70 people have already put $10,000 down to reserve their space on a waiting list.

Maybe the next iteration of Market Street trials can be a Mid-Market regional airstrip?

  • The blind spots while driving look to be horrible. I don’t see how these are street legal.

  • GT

    Really Mike? You noticed the blind spots on a flying car?

  • this is cool and all, but I’d rather have a car that can hover, you know like a Terminator HK or something like the police car in blade runner, that would be more useful (and more future-y) in an urban environment.

  • GT, I figured the rest is so absurd, why not find something most people wouldn’t even care to look at.

  • Jym

    =v= I can’t wait until these drivers start texting.

  • Great. At a time when the world desperately needs fewer cars and fewer planes, we get a 2 fer 1. Design a flying bicycle- now you have my interest…

  • Terrifying. Where are these crafts going to have room to take off or land? What sort of license will you need to pilot one of these? This will be impossible to safely and adequately regulate, so of course they will be on the streets next year.

  • Gavin Newsom should set an example by buying one and diverting money from MUNI to build a parking garage in Golden Gate Park with a landing strip on top.

  • 0101!

    I’ll take it!

  • Wow. This is to the commercial airliner what the automobile is to public transit. And the busy airports’s airstrips are already congested! Where will they all take off? I can see it now: illegal take-offs on the freeway… (I won’t even dare to imagine attempted take-offs on the street..)

  • Oops… airports’*

  • TF

    Greg/Aaron

    Lighten up guys – this is awesome.

  • 0101!

    @TF, agreed. it’s an advancement of technology, the same way the bicycle was hundreds of years ago. It’s called innovation, fellas

  • This is nothing like the bicycle, give me a break. How is encouraging more fossil fuel driven personal transportation a good thing?

    Innovation? I say rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • Dave

    These are not going to be taking off from your neighborhood street. The idea is a vehicle that you could drive to the airport (not SFO; places like Hayward, San Carlos, and Palo Alto have airports for smaller planes and are less busy than large commercial airports), take off, and fly to visit Grandma in Fresno. You’re not going to use it as a commuter vehicle or drive it long distances. But you could park it in your garage.

    As currently designed, you’d require at least a “sport pilot” license from the FAA; this is sort of an entry-level pilot’s license that comes with a laundry list of restrictions on what you can do and where you can fly.

  • I completely understand that, but I still stick by what I said.

  • 0101!

    as far as being new transportation technology, yes it is. sorry to compare your beloved bicycle to anything else besides the holiest of the holy. why are commenters on here so resistant to any change that doesn’t benefit bicycle use? i understand your concern about fossil fuels, but let’s be real, this could be a beneficial mode of transportation once more sustainable sources of fuel become accesible. So far your only legitamite argument has been about blind spots which you have no reference to since you obviously have never been inside one of these.

  • 0101, I don’t care that you compared to the bicycle in the fact that it is a bicycle. But I do care that this thing is just another personal transportation device – that, for the long foreseeable, future will be run on fossil fuels.

    No reference to the blind spots? My god, look at the thing! The wings completely block all sight lines, how is that not creating blind spots.

    We aren’t against everything that doesn’t benefit the bicycle, but this machine is just furthering the fantasy that we’ll be able to move around on some magical power source for years and years and years to come.

  • GoGregorio

    I think this probably goes without saying, but I want to make sure it’s clear: not all innovation is good innovation.

    Also,I haven’t ridden a bicycle in ten years, but I’m still not okay with this thing or with comparisons to the bicycle. Unless it’s human-powered, I really don’t feel that such a comparison is fair. The guy in the video claims that this contraption will be more energy efficient than an SUV, but what isn’t? I really feel that, at this time of crisis, our innovation should be focused on vast improvements, rather than an energy-lateral device that happens to be “cool” to the oldest gen-Xers.

  • 0101!

    so if this machine replaces small airplaines, as it probably is meant to, thats a bad thing? considering that it pollutes less than them, i dont see how that is a bad innovation.

  • GoGregorio

    I mean, I guess I don’t know the exact statistics, but does this plane pollute more per rider than a commercial aircraft? I don’t have the information to say for sure. Do you? If there are significant pollution or energy use benefits, then maybe I’ll find it a bit less distasteful.

  • 0101!

    its not meant to replace commercial aircraft, i dont think. it will probably replace most small planes, thats just a speculation though

  • The bottom line is this would increase the driver/pilot/vehicle to passenger ratio, which means certainly more accidents, more energy wasted, more room taken up, and all that other bad stuff that comes with increased individual motor vehicle use. I don’t really need to tell you the reasons why the bicycle is a very different innovation.

  • Dave

    Bicycles, airplanes, cars: different vehicles which serve different purposes. A bike won’t get you from here to Fresno in an hour or less.

  • Tommy

    Dave,

    Yeah, you can’t have too many transportation options. And in futuristic sci-fi movies, everyone has a flying car.

    Maybe if existing motorists can all fly above Fell Street, we can make Fell into three bike lanes (racer, commuter and family). And put the ARCO gas station on giant stilts.

  • mcas

    @0101!: I’d say that the zeitgeist (no pun intended) of this site’s commenters is primarily that self-propelled personal travel OR fossil-fueled mass transit are the only acceptable options in terms of livability, safety, and environment. And the bike is the most efficient personal transport vehicle, so that’s where general support lies.

    I do think that Aaron’s sentiment: “This is to the commercial airliner what the automobile is to public transit.” is exactly right– the idea that Americans have ‘the right’ to travel on their own schedule, when/wherever they want is so ingrained in the American consciousness and this is a direct outgrowth of that feeling.

    It’s why Americans ‘hate flying’ so much– because we aren’t go-get-’em-cowboy and instead, ‘at the whim’ of the transport operators. It’s usually the first hurdle thrown out when someone explains why they ‘have to drive’ and why they think transit advocates are foolish– and this just takes it to the next level (literally and figuratively).

  • Katherine

    I agree with everyone here who says this scares the shit out of them. Small planes already cause so many problems for big commercial aircraft; all we need is for cars to start doubling as airplanes. And, I can totally see drivers going into “fly” mode to get around the pesky bicyclist in front of them who’s slowing them up.

  • Katherine

    P.S. Not to mention that “Terrafugia” sounds like something out of a Yes Men movie. It’s so ironic that the only people who want to flee the earth are the ones who are making it uninhabitable for the rest of us.

  • wow, the plane car is amazing.  It’s great that you’ve manufactured something that’s highly innovative! Great job guys

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