Thursday, March 19, 2009

Driving an airplane

On March 5 the Terrafugia Transition (can you say that fast ten times?) flew for the first time. It's the latest in a long line of dreams about a practical flying automobile. Whether it will bear fruit is another matter. Here, from the aviation website, is a video of its first flight:

The Transition is actually a "roadable airplane," not a true flying car. The idea is to keep it in your garage and then drive it out to the airport (the designer says it's street legal) for takeoff and landing. Just try that on I-94 during rush hour, however.

What makes it different from past flying-car concepts is the wings. They fold onto the car like a bird's. Earlier designs had detachable wings, such as that of the 1949 Aerocar, of which only six examples ever were built:

The dream of a flying car was born long, long ago. Sometime in the early 1920s a retired doctor named George Spratt, who had worked with the Wright brothers, designed and flew such a machine, and a film of it flying is here.

Frankly, car-airplane hybrids have traditionally made lousy airplanes and lousy cars, and I doubt the Terrafugia Transition is going to be any different. Full marks, however, to its designer for the audacity of his state-of-the-art dreams.


  1. Seems there was a James Bond movie in which the villan used a car that added wings and became an airplane. If memory serves, they drove in one side of a barn and picked up the wings etc and drove out the other side as an airplane.

  2. That was "The Man with the Golden Gun." It was, of all things, a 1974 American Motors Matador.

    Only in the movies do these things work.

  3. The Terrafugia is kind of cute, but I'm still waiting on the flying DeLorean!