Flying car one step closer to delivery with prototype flight

Terrafugia executives expect to start delivering drivable plane within a year

A Massachusetts company is one step closer to delivering its flying car after testing a production prototype.

Terrafugia, an aerospace company founded by pilots and engineers from MIT, has been working to get its Transition Street-Legal Airplane to market for the past few years. The company announced Monday that the drivable plane completed its first flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in upstate New York in March.

The Transition, flying car
The Transition flying car, built by Terrafugia, soars over Plattsburgh, N.Y. Airport, near Lake Champlain. (Image: Terrafugia)

"The successful first flight of this Production Prototype Transition marks a critical move toward initial production and first delivery," said Anna Mracek Dietrich, COO of Terrafugia, in a statement. "Terrafugia will continue its testing program in preparation for first delivery, which is expected to occur within the next year."

Before the production prototype was completed, the Woburn, Mass.-based company built and tested a proof-of-concept vehicle in 2009.

In the summer of 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration granted the company a special weight limit exemption for its flying car. At that point, Terrafugia executives said they hoped to be selling the vehicle in 2011.

Today, however, the company said it will market the Transition this year or in early 2013. The company did not say what delayed the project.

"With this flight, the team demonstrated an ability to accomplish what had been called an impossible dream," said Terrafugia CEO and CTO Carl Dietrich, in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to show that the challenges of bringing a practical street-legal airplane to market can be overcome. This is a very exciting time for Terrafugia."

The Transition's first flight reached an altitude of 1,400 feet above the ground and lasted eight minutes.

Six phases of flight tests are planned to show the Transition's compliance to standards set by the FAA's Light Sport Aircraft branch.

The Transition Prototype Production will be on display at the New York International Auto Show between April 6 and 15 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

The two-seater vehicle, which is designed with foldable wings, falls into the light sport aircraft category and is expected to take off and land at small, local airports and to drive on virtually any road. According to the company's website, the Transition has an anticipated base price of $279,000. That's up from a 2010 company report that said the expected price then was $148,000. Specifications are available on Terrafugia's website.

Anyone flying the Transition will need a sport pilot certificate. The vehicle is designed to fit into a household garage.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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