Terrafugia flying car completes first phase of flight testing


July 1, 2012

Terrafugia flying car during Phase I flight test (Photo: Terrafugia)

Terrafugia flying car during Phase I flight test (Photo: Terrafugia)

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Six years after the initial announcement that Terrafugia, Inc. would develop a "roadable airplane," the Transition has completed the first phase of flight testing. The flight testing, carried out at Plattsburgh International Airport in northern New York State, assessed the light sport aircraft's full performance envelope. The Transition prototype was reported to perform "exceptionally well," allowing the testing to be carried out quickly.

The Terrafugia Transition is classified as a light sport aircraft, and is also designed to meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards. In addition to working as a fine aircraft, the Transition can be legally driven on the road by folding the wings after landing.

The Terrafugia Transition folding its wings to be driven as a licensed street vehicle (Photo: Terrafugia)

The Terrafugia Transition, wings folded, drives casually down a suburban street (Photo: Terrafugia)

A light sport aircraft is defined by the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) as a fixed-wing airplane seating at most two people, with a maximum take-off weight of 1,320 lbs (600 kg), a maximum speed in level flight of 138 mph (222 km/h), a stall speed under 51 mph (82 km/h), and having a single engine and an unpressurized cockpit. The light sport category is nicely wedged between conventional light planes and ultralight planes (weighing less than 254 lbs (115 kg) empty weight and capable of flying no faster than 63 mph (101 kph), providing the opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to fly in a reasonably capable aircraft without requiring full noncommercial training and medical clearance.

The Terrafugia Transition in flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)

The Transition actually has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 lbs (650 kg). An exemption for the extra 110 pounds (50 kg) above the usual weight limit was granted by the FAA so that the Transition can incorporate modern automotive-style safety features currently unavailable in other light aircraft.

The Terrafugia Transition on a test flight over northern New York State (Photo: Terrafugia)

Phase I flight testing of a light sport aircraft in the United States involves determining performance and maneuverability characteristics at speed, weight, center of gravity, and altitude variations under which the Transition is intended to be flown. Among the performance characteristics tested were power on and power off handling, aircraft stability, engine cooling evaluation, and propeller setting optimization in various flight conditions.

The Terrafugia Transition coming in for a landing after a test flight (Photo: Terrafugia)

Five more flight test phases are planned, with the goal of double-certifying the Transition as a Light Sport Aircraft and a drivable vehicle by the end of the (northern hemisphere) summer. Road tests ahead include exploring the ground drivetrain, tuning the suspension, and optimizing braking and road handling.

Topping the tank of the Terrafugia Transition with premium unleaded gasoline at a neighborhood service station (Photo: Terrafugia)

First customer delivery of a Terrafugia Transition is expected to occur in late 2012. While the expected price of the Transition continues to rise, from the original estimate of US$148,000 to the present estimate of US$279,000, the commercial availability of this historic aircraft/car is eagerly awaited in the sport aviation community. I know I would love to have one!

The video below shows footage taken from various test flights of the Terrafugia Transition production prototype.

Source: Terrafugia, Inc.

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

Any roadable airplane, or flyable car is not going to be a great performer as a car or plane. But given the limits placed on the plane by the aircraft classification aside from fuel consumption it's not bad and I have driven cars with worse rear vision.


A marginal 2 seat light-sport, vfr only, aircraft and a ridiculous 2 seat car (try parking that puppy in your local WalMart lot) for only $300,00?

Give me a break! And yes, I've owned many aircraft and many cars over the past 45 years.

Just because it can be built, doesn't mean it should be built.


MAQ, the people that own this vehicle are not likely to be taking it on a beer run to Walmart or anywhere else.

NK Fro

I dont see this a flying car, more so a compact aircraft. A compact aircraft is a cool idea, thought the price needs to come down for a larger market. I didnt notice if it was, but were this a VTOL craft it would be much more useful and marketable.


I will give them technical credit for being able to comply with both FAA and DOT regs in one vehicle (no small feat), but to me, as a pilot, it is neither fish nor fowl. It doesn't make a particular great car nor a particularly great airplane. It's another solution looking for a problem.

$30,000? Sure. $300,000? Not a chance.

There's another company in the Netherlands making a driveable gyrocopter that isn't any better priced but it certainly doesn't look like the Terra-whatever's Studebaker looks - call the PAL-V. Much slicker looking, nice presentation, similar performance.

I don't know - this seems like a combination toaster and quadraphonic stereo system.

I wish them luck but I wouldn't bet my 401(k) on it.

Charles Gage

It could go to a $500,00 price tag with more over-runs putting into the range for some government agency to bid on it.

Richard Dicky Riddlebarger

Would love to own one of these, it would enable a very special kind of freedom, even if it can't exceed 110 knots. The problem is, I'm still dreaming of the day when I can go and buy a 1970s Cessna 172, let alone a brand new flying car.


and @ Yinfu, the Moller Skycar might be up your alley. A VTOL flying car that's been in development for 40-plus years, in comparison, Terrafugia's development is lightspeed fast.


As toys go, it certainly isn't the highest-priced choice, compared to boats, mtorhomes, and other airplanes. Just look at the number of people with a $200K deposit to make one sub-orbital flight. The Terrafuga doesn't excite me enough to buy one, but I certainly applaud those who choose to do so. It's their money and they are free to spend it as they wish. Kudos to all who have worked for years to develop the Terrafuga

Larry Clement

@PeetEngineer, I hope that was a joke. The Moller Skycar isn't an aircraft or a car. It's a device to drain cash from investors pockets.

Dennis Roberts

I noticed that when the plane banked, I couldn't see any flap movement on the wings. Strange. I wonder what is holding up the Moller Sky Car. The answer is: not enough! How about a mini Osprey car/VTOL machine? That would be something!


Hmmm....I see a lot of skepticism here. Wonder why? Perhaps it's because one can buy a higher end comfortable car for 35k. One can also buy a great ultralight (in Canada, our ultralights are more like the sport category in the U.S.) for around 60k. Ok, so I have to park it, tie it down and switch vehicles. Big deal. I still save a load of coin. The only way this is at all handy is if it was able to be landed off airport, which it isn't. And we're always back to the price. While the ultralight and sport plane category have tried to make flying fun and affordable, this seems to be an invention for those with a lot of spare cash who have a 'Look what I have' attitude. We haven't touched upon the repair bill and recertification after the inevitable road accident. If it's built light enough to fly, I seriously doubt it can withstand a solid impact without sustaining serious damage. What would the repair costs be? Would the average pilot or homebuilder be comfortable enough or skilled enough to undertake the repairs on their own? Who would recertify it as being airworthy? I'll bet after a good collision, the repair costs would be prohibitive enough to deter anyone from wanting to use it for anything other than an aircraft. The flying car concept has been around for almost as long as aviation and it has never taken off. (pun intended) There's a message in that but nobody wants to read it.


The ability to drive your little airplane home instead of keeping it at the field might turn out to be very liberating. Fifteen years ago, you didn't think you needed a cell phone or a hi-def flat screen TV, did you? And in case you didn't know, some people already shell out that much money for a high-prestige car which cannot fly at all.


If I could get help with my rotary engine prototype, I believe I could get Moller's skycar off the ground. RWC


There are a lot of private airstrips that I think this would be perfect for. I used to work at a resort with a private strip that had a fair amount of fly-in traffic. The problem was that if they flew in late or during a busy time, they'd have to schlep themselves and their baggage in the west Texas heat to the hotel or their rented house. I can think of a few other situations where a light plane with limited road capabilities would be very useful.

Robert Braun

Let's see... I can pay $300,000 to drive my plane to the airport and go for a fly or I can leave my $100,000 airplane at the airfield,paying a comparatively low lease on the upkeep and storage and drive my $30,000 car TO the airfield then go for a fly. hmmm choices choices


Great start...can't wait to see the practical, affordable retail unit.


Have considered flying to a small town, only to realize that there is not a cab, and you never know if the airport courtesy (retired cop) car will be there. So it does have uses.

Many aircraft I'd buy first (if won the lottery), with the Icon A5 at the top of the list! Might even buy the Pal-V before this.


From challengerpilot, "...this seems to be an invention for those with a lot of spare cash who have a 'Look what I have' attitude."

There are such people. Hence, there is a market, aside from those who find it practical to drive off the airport without the need for public transport or rendezvous if they are not local.

Well done Terrafugia team. Pioneers often face the wrath of others who don't see the vision. We know this is a first step and an inspiring one it is!


anybody else curious how much this will blow around on the highway with trucks passing and such? i am totally behind the idea but drivers will have to be alert.


If the weather closes in around you, you can land on a road and drive somewhere useful rather than simply wait.


This isn't a flying car. It's a street-legal small aircraft with foldable wings. We need to accept that, as of right now, we do not have the technology to create a true flying car. I'm not advocating that we stop researching, quite the opposite, but what I am saying, (and what everyone else on this thread is saying) is that until you have the tech to deliver event the first generation true flying car, stop trying to pass off these poor-man's hybrids on the world.

Brian Brehart

re; Brian Brehart

It will take a rewriting of the law of physics to build George Jetson type flying cars.


re; Brian Brehart It will take a rewriting of the law of physics to build George Jetson type flying cars. Or maybe incorporate D-Dalus into a flying car system.

Kelvin Onwurah

A cruise at 63mph, what is it's stall, 53mph? what happens when you have a head wind?


Pro/, this has certainly has garnered a lot of commentary.

Lumen..I don't want to make it seem like I have anything against this and yes, bravo to those who invent and try new things. I just think there are numerous hiccups that haven't been mentioned or addressed.

Slowburn....Not sure if you're a pilot or not or if that was a tongue in cheek statement but to the best of my knowledge, landing on a highway because the weather turned to crap in order to continue your voyage on rubber and pavement is not allowed. It's more a testament to poor flight planning. Vehicular traffic, overhead me the willies just thinking about it...only in an emergency for me:) I like flying over farm fields personally...


I knew a guy who told me once: if you can fly it, float it, or f* it, you'd be money ahead renting.


re; challengerpilot

Weather forecasting is not an exact science, and admittedly I would much prefer an airport but when the devil drives.


You can see that it's part car... what a ground hog! It took almost 30 seconds to get off, about the same as a passenger jet, twice that for a C-152, and about 10 times the takeoff interval for the LSA's that I fly. With a high stall speed and a low cruise speed, a limited speed range is a shortcoming that makes aircraft far less forgiving, and is the hallmark of an inefficient design: Weight and drag are the enemies of aircraft performance, and this plane does poorly in both departments. Someone has wasted quite a lot of money (other peoples, most likely). Can't say "it will never fly", but I can see that it will never be competitive against "straight" aircraft in it's class, at a fraction of the cost, and forget about comparing it on the road, to ANY "real" car. Oh and Lumen, this is nothing new. A flying car was made in 1886 (based on a dirigable!). The Taylor Aerocar, similar but FASTER than the Terrawhatever, was introduced in 1949.

John Hunter

John, the Transition is a compromise, in low production. It has to follow the rules for Light Sport to let the drivers license be the health test, and so the maximum weight was limited.

You compared it to the Aerocar; you seem to be wrong. Comparing Transition To Aerocar: (wikipedia) cruise speed: 107 vs 70 mph engine: 83 vs 320 cu in weight: 1430 vs 2100 lbs gross number of people: 2 vs 1

Walton Ferris
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