One of the things we’ve all always wanted was a flying car, and now the first flying car in the world has finally taken its maiden flight. The Transition from Terrafugia is one part automobile and one part airplane. The vehicle, which is expected to be the first step in flying cars has been much anticipated. Will the transition be the next step that takes us forward into the world of personal aircraft?
We’ve been following the progress of this unlikely vehicle since 2010 when the first plans were proposed – and the journey for the developers at Terrafugia has been a long one. The journey to get the vehicle off the ground in the first test flights was a long one with many complications. The flights, held at airports with engineers on the ground watching with held breaths showed several of the difficulties the craft would have in the future as it became a more finalized concept. In addition to the concerns about weight and the difficulties with making the vehicle simple enough for drivers-made-pilots to understand, the vehicle had a major hurdle to overcome with the strength and capabilities of its tires.
Aircraft tires and the tires of conventional cars are very different both in function and form. While the standard automobile has tires designed to travel long distances, the tires on most aircraft are specially designed to withstand considerable wear in a very short period of time with each landing. The pressure and tension involved in both had to be considered when designing a car that could both drive and fly in a single outing. In 2011 the vehicle was finally considered street legal and air worthy.
The Terrafugia flying car needs to extend its wings in order to achieve flight, lowering them down at a designated airport to allow it to hit the speeds necessary to take it into the air. These wings must then be retracted once again in order to make the vehicle ready for the open road.
But even now as the Terrafugia finishes its first open road test flight successfully, other air vehicles are beginning to enter the market including Chris Malloy’s concept hoverbike, designed for industrial, military, and rescue applications. The design does not include a ground equivalent, and instead of wings utilizes two large spinning propellers to get it off the ground. Between these two vehicles, we may be soon looking at the future of manned flight.
Are flying cars here? Yes, but with a price tag that may make it impossible for most people to enjoy. The Terrafugia Transition is expected to cost would-be-flyers over a quarter of a million dollars per vehicle. Maybe the question will soon change from, “When will flying cars exist” to “When will flying cars become affordable?” For that, it may still be some time. Meanwhile, it’s an interesting technological advancement to keep an eye on.