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Transitioning From Earth to the Air

Terrafugia’s Transition Makes First Flights


March 19, 2009 — They spent months proving that it could drive. Earlier this month, with little fanfare, they proved it could fly. In the early morning hours of March 5, at Plattsburgh (New York) International Airport, test pilot Phil Meteer, a retired US Air Force colonel, made the first flight of the Terrafugia Transition. Often referred to as a flying car, the Transition is a two-seat, roadable aircraft designed to take off and land at local airports and drive on any road.

After 37 seconds aloft, Meteer landed and taxied safely to a full stop. He said the flying car was stable and smooth on the runway, and the controls responded like a normal airplane.

“The first flight was remarkably unremarkable,” Meteer said. “I’ve flown several thousand hours in everything from Piper Cubs to F-16s and the Transition flew like a really nice airplane.”

The flight came after six months of drive testing and taxi testing. Following a successful full vehicle inspection, flight testing continued on March 7 with six additional flights, reaching 100 feet over the runway.

“This flight is a symbol of a new freedom in aviation. It’s what enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918,” says Carl Dietrich, Terrafugia CEO. “This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility. Travel now becomes a hassle-free integrated land-air experience.”

The company claims that by giving pilots a convenient ground transportation option, the Transition reduces the cost, hassle, and weather sensitivity of personal aviation. It also increases safety by incorporating automotive crash structures and allowing pilots to drive under bad weather. 

Now that the concept has been proven, the Terrafugia team will begin to design the next prototype using the lessons learned from the first vehicle. In the meantime, Terrafugia plans to participate in upcoming air shows, including EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 and the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida next month. The aircraft and team have been to Oshkosh the past several years, first with computer renderings, then with the folding-wing demonstration, and last year with the prototype that flew earlier this month.

Richard Gersch, vice president of business development, said that the number one question people had in past Oshkosh appearances was: “Has it flown yet?”

 “People are always looking for that next step,” he said. “We are so looking forward to saying, ‘Yes, it has’ at the air shows this year.”

Will that include a flight demo at Oshkosh this summer?

“We’re doing this very methodically, which is why our current test protocol is on the runway,” Gersch said. “We will have to wait and see.” The Transition is certificated in the experimental – research and development category.

EAA, and in particular, the team’s home EAA Chapter 106, were among the many receiving thanks from Dietrich and the Terrafugia team. “Our company would not be on the path to success without the support of our friends in the aviation industry,” Dietrich said.

When ready for production in 2011, the roadable vehicle will sell for an estimated $194,000.

Click here to see video of the flight testing or here to see Meteer talk about the flight.

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