The Flying Car: A Little Late, But Here it Comes


Tue, Mar 6th, 2012 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to The Economist, "more than a dozen flying cars are in development,", thanks in part to advances in technology and changes in regulation, with Terrafugia's Transition to be the first commercial model to be launched. We're probably not going to see too many on the road, though: with a starting price of $279,000, this ain't a cheap ride.

Push a button and the wings fold up, allowing the pilot to start driving it like a car. It even runs on petrol, with a range of 600 miles (1,000km) on the ground or 400 miles in the air. Around 100 aircraft have been reserved, and the first is due to be delivered later this year. Technically, the Transition has been made possible by the availability of modern engines, composite materials and computerised avionics systems. But it has also taken advantage of the "Lite-Sport" aircraft category introduced by America's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2004.

This category was partly intended to plug gaps created by unregulated small aircraft, but there was another reason to introduce it, says Carl Dietrich, Terrafugia's co-founder and chief executive: to spur innovation and make it easier to get a pilot's licence. Part of the FAA's remit is to promote flight, yet getting a licence is difficult and time-consuming. Safety is paramount, of course, but in theory this could be made simpler for people who want to fly a simpler class of plane.



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