Greener Transport? World’s First Flying Car to Go On Sale Next Month

Terrafugia's flyable prototype Transition airplane, later assigned tail number N302TF, being shown during SciFoo 2008 at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Just behind the airplane are two of Terrafugia's founders: Samuel Schweighart (L, red shirt), VP of Engineering; and Carl Dietrich (R, beige shirt), CEO/CTO.

Terrafugia’s flyable prototype Transition airplane, later assigned tail number N302TF, being shown during SciFoo 2008 at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Just behind the airplane are two of Terrafugia’s founders: Samuel Schweighart (L, red shirt), VP of Engineering; and Carl Dietrich (R, beige shirt), CEO/CTO. By Matt Brown from London, England (A flying car) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The global automobile carbon footprint is about to get a significant boost, with the dawn of the age of flying cars.

World’s first flying car to go on sale next month and it could cost more than £300,000

Jasper Hamill
Thursday 27 Sep 2018 9:57 am

The world’s first flying car will be available to pre-order next month. A Chinese company called Terrafugia is preparing to unleash a vehicle called the Transition which can turn from an automobile into an aircraft in just a minute.

It travels at just 100 miles per hour, making it slower than the world’s most sluggish jet, the Soviet PZL M-15 Belphegor which was built to be used on massive state-owned farms. The most striking aspect of the Transition is its folding wings, which extend to allow flight and can be retracted when driving on roads.

It is fitted with a parachute system as well as a ‘boost’ mode to give a ‘brief burst of extra power while flying’. The Chinese news agency Xinhua said pre-sales will begin in October. Terrafugia previously said the Transition would cost $279,000, although a Terrafugia reportedly revised the cost upwards to somewhere between $300k and $400k. This means it could have a price of more than £300,000 in the UK.

‘The Transition is the world’s first practical flying car,’ Terrafugia wrote.

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2018/09/27/worlds-first-flying-car-to-go-on-sale-next-month-7983325/

The following is a video of the Terrafugia in action:

At $400k the first flying car is going to be a luxury item, at least initially. But there are plenty of well paid executives who loathe the daily commute, who might find the option of flying over traffic jams an attractive proposition. And in time, if the Terrafugia is a success, less expensive consumer versions of the flying car might become available.

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131 thoughts on “Greener Transport? World’s First Flying Car to Go On Sale Next Month

  1. Oh, brother! Just what we need, a bunch of amateur pilots causing congestion in the skies and accidents. I’d love to see how an insurance company is going to determine rates for one of these
    things.

    • you’re kidding, right?
      do you imagine there will be a traffic jam of 400,000$ vehicles in the sky?
      really really?

        • they do not need an airport because they are VTOL.
          the owner will land in his own parking lot and park in his reserved CEO space at his company and land in his ample driveway of his malibu home.
          did you watch the vid?
          (not the one from 10 years ago)

          • Hopefully his (20 years younger) wife won’t forget to close the trash can and cause him to blow garbage all over the neighborhood via rotorwash.
            It could however be a great way for the elite to keep the leaves blown from their driveways without hiring Mexicans.

          • The VTOL aircraft was an artists impression shown in as a smooth animation. The real aircraft was the white aircraft with ‘experimental’ certification that needs, by the look of it, around 3000 – 4000 ft of runway.

          • Have you every worked around operating VTOL aircraft?
            These seem attractive to the ignorant layman who doesn’t understand that in order to take off vertically one needs to produce enough downward thrust from your engines to accomplish this. Anyone who has worked around helicopters will be aware of this.
            Just how long do you think you r neighbors will abide sticks, rocks, loose lawn furniture, etc. being tossed through their picture windows and wreaking havoc on their property? And the noise won’t be appreciated either.

          • Would like to see their actual VTOL prototype in action.
            More than likely it would be almost as loud as a helicopter upon take off and landing.
            For potential Noise restrictions in subdivisions, you would still need designated landing zones.
            Then with the 400 – 500 mile range, the landing pads would need to be equipped with Fuel Pumps for convenient refueling. Hybrids still use Gas and need refueling.

          • Ian W

            Thanks for the simulation 2nd opinion. Operationally VTOL is pretty horrendous. The V-22 is way expensive and only an advantage in very limited scenarios. I think I saw the forward speed for VTOL landing was limited to 9mph. I doubt you’ll see these in hot LZs similar to Vietnam. I also thought I remember the Israel’s declined to purchase V-22’s. They did purchase f-35’s though I expect they were mostly interested in reverse engineering the technologies.

            Also somewhere forgotten, I was seeing the stats that Light Sport Aircraft had dismal safety records vis-a-vis “regular” aircraft despite the stats showing LSA pilots were generally very experienced. The unproven suspicion was light wing loading and light control forces may make the LSA harder to control in takeoff and landings.

          • Scientist,

            A light aircraft doesn’t need much lift to take off. This one uses a number of drone quadcopter-like props to provide VTOL lift, and a pusher main motor for level flight, for minimal downdraft on TO and landing:

            https://cora.aero/

            People wanting to use an autonomous drone air taxi or their own flying car could keep their driveways or landing pads clear of debris. If electric, the vehicles would be quiet.

          • 1. Whether light or heavy a VTO aircraft is it needs a downward thrust equal to its weight and then some.

            2. Much, often most, of the noise from an aircraft is not engine noise, it is aerodynamic.

            3. Current electric aircraft are about where conventional aircraft were in 1908 with regard to performance.

          • Tty,

            Gas and diesel cars are also noisy. For commuting to work, the capabilities of 1908 a/c would be adequate. And electric a/c will improve, as did gasoline-powered flying machines.

            Bleriot flew across the English Channel in 1909.

          • The noise from the engines can be hushed, but the noise from the props not as easily. And how are you going to force homeowners to maintain their yards and their neighbor’s yard free from detritus that will cause FOD (foreign object damage). We can’t even maintain our active airport runways free from FO.
            The wing aspect ration of many of these concept vehicles is not optimized for low speed flight so relying on dynamic lift for takeoff and landing won’t occur.

        • Tillman, you obviously don’t own a yard. They are usually covered with loose vegetation which tends to obscure things like stones, golf balls, old tools, dog bones… Then there is the vegetation itself which will be stripped of leaves, small twigs.
          I’ve walked decks of CVNs and backyards alike. While a backyard is smaller, it is far less controlled and maintained.
          BTW when a CH-53 takes off it blows heavy tools overboard if they are not secured. Of course that’s a 46,000 lb helo. So a 3000 lb vehicle may only blow over the bird bath and send the bicycles flying or the roof off the shed.

          Why are helopads constructed in specific places, with flat clear surfaces, usually far away from vegetation or other structures?

          • Rocket,

            I do have a yard, but would consider it better to build a concrete landing pad. Cora’s needn’t be big. Dunno its trike gear foot print, but a rectangular pad of 500 square feet should suffice.

            I fly off and land on grass strips, so am fairly familiar with the kind of debris which can accumulate.

            In Afghanistan, I saw a Chinook blow newly delivered refrigerators off the FOB’s river rock landing pad.

            But Cora is not a Chinook.

          • Cora was tested in the US from Hollister, CA airport, so its effect on grass isn’t visible in this video, although it does fly at low level over grass. It’s now being flown in NZ:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KCs-p7jWjc

            IMO it would be possible to keep a few hundred sq ft of a lawn debris-free, but, as noted, a pad would be easier and more visible. Just using a grass strip daily would tend to keep it cleaner than the rest of the yard.

          • RS,

            This video has footage (for instance from ~2:47) of the German Volocopter (partnered with Intel) prototype lifting off from grass with 18 rotors rather than just 12, as on Cora. They are a bit higher off the ground than Cora’s however. No debris visible.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tODIvUmH6cs

            I grew up with my dad flying off a 1200′ grass crop dusting strip in an N3N, without even noticing a lot of debris, despite straw in the wheatfield next to the strip every other year. Obviously not a helicopter, but it did feature an oily, 235 hp Wright R-760-2 Whirlwind radial engine. And I’ve flown in crop dusting helicopters from grass and over fields, including to land in the woods.

            Powerful military helicopters of course do kick up a lot of stuff and blow things away.

            The flying taxis being developed now won’t have the same effect.

          • I like the ay that the CORAs et al are being promoted as “emissions free” because they are electric. The NZ air taxi test seem to be based on that premise.
            Where does the electricity come from??

    • While I wouldn’t buy one of these and I doubt whether it will be a success… your concerns are unfounded. We have lived on an airport with our small airplanes for 25 years and been flying for longer than that. When we leave the airport we live on and fly a few hundred miles to another region the only time we usually see other aircraft is when we come to an airport.

    • Planes do not all fly at the same altitude, nor do they all have the same flight ceiling. Private single-engine planes don’t share the same airspace as commercial airliners, and typically don’t use the same runways either.

      • “Private single-engine planes don’t share the same airspace as commercial airliners” Wrong, oh yes we do. We just all do a good job staying away from each other.

    • If I thought this really would become a problem this truck driver would tell you all to be afraid, very afraid! The stuff I see out on the road makes it absolutely clear that it doesn’t matter what they are driving. Moronic drivers are pretty equally distributed across the financial spectrum as determined by the vehicle they’re driving.

      Nearly everyday I avoid accidents and the proportion of morons in new Beamers, Mercs, and Cadies, that have dangerous driver’s behind the wheel seems to me to be about the same as those driving junk.
      Heads up phones down!

      • I agree. There’s way too many drivers that don’t practice lane discipline, don’t signal there intentions adequately (or at all), and who are paying attention to seemingly anything BUT driving.

        And all of that is with the structure of marked lanes, entry and exit ramps, traffic signs and traffic signals. Just imagine the havoc the same idiots could cause WITHOUT all that “structure,” in the air. It’ll be raining aircraft in no time!

        • When I was young, as noticed that on average, in Paris, you should bet against the signaled intention of a driver:

          – a signal to turn shouldn’t be interpreted as a signal to turn just now, but some time in the future (that intersection, the next one…)
          – a signal to turn in some direction shouldn’t be interpreted a signal to turn in that direction, could be the other one
          – no signal to turn shouldn’t be interpreted as the intent to go straight, or even the intent to stop, read indication, think about it, and restart slowly

          The correctly signaled intentions were way below 50%.

          Now it seems slightly better, but there are still a lot of reckless drivers. (Also, reckless pedestrians.)

    • It will piloted by Tesla automatic driving technology!

      Tesla will use many high tech sensors to detect all objects whether by the visible spectrum or not, use advanced AI to identify the objects, and use autopilot to run into them.

  2. Not the first.

    Aerocar International’s Aerocar (often called the Taylor Aerocar) was an American roadable aircraft, designed and built by Moulton Taylor in Longview, Washington, in 1949. Although six examples were built, the Aerocar never entered production.
    [ … ]
    Civil certification was gained in 1956 under the auspices of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), and Taylor reached a deal with Ling-Temco-Vought for serial production on the proviso that he was able to attract 500 orders. When he was able to find only half that number of buyers, plans for production ended, and only six examples were built, with one still flying as of 2008 and another rebuilt by Taylor into the only Aerocar III.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerocar

    There is one in the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, WI.

    • The headline is flat out wrong. The company is more careful:

      ‘The Transition is the world’s first practical flying car,’ Terrafugia wrote.

      They say it’s practical. I suppose it is practical as long as you carefully define the word ‘practical’. 🙂

      • Well, my post was going to be this: “Totally frigging impractical”. And I was going to put it at the end of the existing comments, but you gave me a better place to put it, commieBOB.

        This is a rich-boy toy par excellence. Now Americans have another avenue to become even more stupid. And you thought texting while driving on the ground was a problem !

        Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s super stupid ?

        • Yep. Circa 1960.
          There used to be one on display at SeaTac airport ( Seattle/Tacoma).

          Here’s what the Aerocar looked like:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFle5FSY1p4

          If I remember correctly, Bob Cummings was also an investor in the company.

          Wings and other bits were towed behind on little trailer I think, then assembled at the airport.

        • The Aerocar appears more stable and easier to fly and land than the Transition airplane which has wings low to the ground and rear wheels (main gear) well back of the CG.

          • Location of the landing gear will determine how well the vehicle can ‘rotate’ during takeoff. B-52’s use a bicycle landing gear configuration with the CG well ahead of the aft gear (most planes employ tricycle configurations). This only means that the plane must fly itself off the ground without rotating (no pitch-up) and that it requires a longer field.
            Low wings can cause issues with cross wind landings if the landing gear is short. Its hard to crab, dip and yaw when you have less ground clearance.

    • Exactly. Even if they were expensive (i.e. $1.5 milion) the real problem was the number of licences and medical exams needed to drive and fly was the real reason that these were not “practical”. I don’t think these present guys can bypass these requirements any time soon.

  3. Why?
    It obviously sucks as a car, and it probably sucks even more as a plane. Clearly it has little cargo capacity with those small wings and dangerous stall characteristics. It is not VSTOL, so you’d still need a decent runway for T/O and landing.
    If you can afford $400,000 for a novelty, then you’d be better buying a reliable proven light aircraft and 2 inexpensive cars at your two favorite destinations, or just Uber it.

    • All else aside, for the wealthy executive, it will be no more than a status and recreational toy for those who have flying as a hobby.

      For commuting, they’ll stick with what they use now. Whether a limousine or a Learjet, a high level executive is doing business while they commute. Usually company business, although sometimes monkey business. Neither of which is possible in this contraption.

    • For the price of topping off the tank, I’ve had good luck just mooching a car from an FBO employee for a couple hours 😉

    • Folding wings… meet turbulence.
      Good thing it has an emergency parachute.

      And notice the test flight in the video was on a very cold day.

        • Speed,

          That’s why I posted the link to a photo of the Corsair, flown by my USMC aviator dad.

          But yes, many other USN a/c share this feature, as Joel well knows.

          • It probably is, but I’d feel a bit better if the pilot/driver had to get out an unfold it and lock it in place personally.

          • True, the ones properly designed and tested have been properly designed and tested. And, the Navy has good reason for wanting folded wings due to limited deck space on CVNs. But, they mechanisms add a lot of weight and risk. (a mechanism that is not there cannot break or fail). As a consequence, and you know this well, the rest of the vehicle needs to accommodate this added weight with beefed up structure and landing mechanisms (the hard landings don’t help).

          • Scientist,

            Carrier aircraft do of course have to weigh more, but their beefier landing gear and reinforced structures also make them tougher, safer and more survivable in crashes.

          • John,
            The heavier aircraft also comes with: reduced range (combat radius), increased fuel consumption, reduced payload capacity… improved survivability not so much.

            I’ve been involved in aircraft design since the YF-17 became the F-18 and the navy pilots said “Hey, we test flew a sports car (YF-17) and you delivered a family sedan (F-18)!”

            There are very good reasons why ‘flying cars’ have not become practical and none of the reasons have been obviated.

            “The Piper Cub is the safest small plane around, it can just barely kill you.”
            -test pilot

          • rocketscientist September 28, 2018 at 1:02 pm

            Yet some customers appreciate Hornet’s ruggedness. And the USAF adopted F-4.

            The new record holder for way heavier than it should be of course is F-35 in all three variants.

          • PS:

            I have a lot of time in a Super Cub in the mountains and have not yet died.

            But it would be a good way to go (unless a young passenger or pilot should be aboard). As the old, not so bold aviators say, “It beats cancer.”

    • IIRC that was a real “vehicle”, not sure if it was a car with wings attached or a small plane make to look like a car, but it did fall out of the sky killing the pilot. The film continued using a model.

    • My first thought of Bond + flying car was the corkscrew jump over the broken bridge in Live and Let Die. One of the most awesome car stunts ever pulled off, and the director set it to a slide whistle. A freakin’ slide whistle!

      • The corkscrew jump looked unbelievable, but was actually done. But the most unbelievable part of the film was the car chase through central Bangkok. Even when the film was made, that would have been impossible. In today’s traffic you need a VTOL car to move at all.

    • Yeah, but how exactly did he land that vehicle on his island that Bond had to fly a small seaplane to? 🙂

  4. Since the dawn of aviation, people have dreamed of the “flying car”. It will likely never happen. All attempts to date have made for both mediocre airplanes and mediocre cars.
    Most of the attributes that make for an excellent airplane and excellent automobile are diametrically opposed. There are just too many compromises.

    Plus consider the practical problems. Airplanes are pretty well protected from damage at airports. Would you feel comfortable leaving your $400,000 airplane in a parking lot, where what would be a considered a minor bump by a careless driver with an ordinary care could possibly mean 10s-of-thousands of dollars when it happens to a relatively fragile airframe? In aviation, such episodes are rare, and very expensive when they do happen.

    • …Plus consider the practical problems. Airplanes are pretty well protected from damage at airports. Would you feel comfortable leaving your $400,000 airplane in a parking lot, where what would be a considered a minor bump by a careless driver…

      This sounds like the classic mistake the environmentalists make – judging the future by what exists in the present,.

      IF we ever get lots of flying cars which need parking at an airport, and
      IF those cars are as expensive and delicate as current aircraft,
      THEN no doubt the parking facilities will be arranged accordingly…..

      • Just what value is a flying car if it could only be parked at the airport or at home? If I can’t fly/drive it to my final destination, why bother with it? A small, private helipad at home and helicopter would accomplish the same thing.

      • I somehow doubt that a meaningful number of commercial venues are going to go to the trouble of setting up separate parking accommodations just for this. Look how controversial it was just getting handicap spots.

      • A flying car to be practical would need to park in a lot of other places than at airports. Like in the street or in mall parking lots.

        • Tty,

          Businesses will have landing pads in their parking lots or on their roofs. Downtowns will use the top level of parking structures.

          • The auto-car mentioned in this article is not a VTOL vehicle. It operates like a conventional airplane out of conventional airports, and is then intended to operate on conventional roadways.

  5. I am more bemused that they bothered to name the guy wearing the red shirt in the first photo.

    Why do we have to bother learning his name? We all know he will be killed before the first commercial break.

  6. New years eve 1968 I was in a flying van. Flew then rolled 6 times and, Lord knows why, all three of us that were in the van are still here. No, I was not driving.

  7. A price of $400k is an awfully light price tag for an airplane let alone one that doubles as an automobile. They won’t be for sale in the USA as I assume the Chinese government is the manufactures liability insurer. I doubt $400k would underwrite the insurance here.
    Could be offered as a kit here though.

  8. Gawd. Busy execs can’t even drive their own car and not crash it. Imagine air-cars crashing – they have to land somewhere. No such thing as a fender-bender in the air. Insurance? Who’d give anyone liability? Think also about cost of operation – it’s not like the FAA allows mechanics to shortcut maintenance – Gee honey, get the air-car an oil change down at jiffy lube today? Missed it? That’s ok.

  9. That don’t exactly look street legal. Better keep a regular old car around for when inclement weather keeps you grounded. 🙂

  10. The concept is crazy in today’s world. If you want to use a small aircraft for transport, you have to be prepared to operate IFR (under Instrument Flight Rules) and cope with things like icing, filing flight plans and calculating fuel reserves for diversions. In today’s world you also need a great quantity of specialised electronics and know how to use them. A job for professionals.

  11. So the George Jetson era has finally arrived. But where is the promised milk out of the tap? If this craze ever takes off the traffic jams in the air will be worse than on the ground. Air traffic controllers have to reserve lots of space between air planes so the skies will get too filled up too quickly. However it will decongest the roads for a while.

  12. What a stupid idea. We don’t need flying cars, just like we don’t need flying toasters. Specialization is the mark of an advanced society. We have machines for specific purposes, that do their specific job well. Do those who fly their own private planes really suffer from a lack of ground transportation? I hope the idiots who invested in this have money to burn.

  13. The first big problem with the concept of the flying car is, no matter what the cost, no easily convertable prototype developed so far does either very well. Until that problem is solved all the other concerns are just academic.

  14. In road mode it has hybrid propulsion so greenies should go ecstatic.
    However a low-wing with the main landing gear that aft from the center of gravity, not something I’ll like to handle in crosswinds. and.. Ok, that’s not the topic.
    I’m afraid it would remain a novelty reserved to the happy few ones with private pilot license, radio operator ticket, valid medical, driver’s license and a fair amount of hours on the dial, able to assume the maintenance costs of an aircraft parked on a supermarket lot.
    But, hey, even so it’s much more realistic than the desperate attempts to achieve an electric propulsion flight.

  15. This is a luxury, novelty item.

    It is a reality of engineering that any “flying car” will underperform as both a plane and a car. You can’t exactly land in your parking lot, so the only advantage to such a… thing is that you don’t also have to rent a car at whatever airport you fly to. If I’m flying to my cottage out of town, how hard is it to fly a real plane and then get into the Jaguar that keep there in my assigned parking spot there.

    And if someone bumps into your “car” while getting groceries, the FAA has to recertify your “car” for flight.

  16. The ultimate problem with “flying cars” is government regulations, not tech.

    In nearly every western democracy, driving a “flying car” on surface streets will require a drivers license, and flying the car will require a pilots license and require that you take of and land at approved airports/landing strips, you will get in serious legal trouble if you attempt to launch one of these things from city streets in almost any country.

    • Yes, must force the little people to grovel to the Department of Motorist Extortion & Privacy Violation. But the Red Chinese Peoples’ Special Transition has that hard-wired in.

      The SkyCar worked decades ago, but then the guberment swooped in: all test flights must be tethered, multiple redundancy computer control & routing, yadda yadda yadda. Price still climbing the last I checked. Cousin Harold used to buzz the house in the 1940s & 1950s, I’m told… ane everywhere in chains.

    • Tom in F,

      Transporters? How primitive ! Think outside the box — no transportation AT ALL, just all hooked together with tubes, in stasis, living in virtual reality (ala MATRIX). This way we could be at one with the computer models – Om mani padme hum Just re-define some of those words to mean “computer model” — a timeless mixture of spiritual tradition and modern technology.

  17. It seems that whoever tries to combine a car with an airplane always ends up with something that is hopelessly unable to perform the function of either very well.

    Police chases could be interesting though –

  18. “It travels at just 100 miles per hour, making it slower than the world’s most sluggish jet, the Soviet PZL M-15…”

    Of course it’s slower — it’s piston driven.

  19. Terrafugia was started many years ago by several MIT alumni and based in Woburn, MA. It was purchased last year by a Chinese conglomerate, so I guess it is technically a chinese company now

    • Likely was purchased so the intellectual property of the company and any teammates and subcontractors could be examined by the People’s Liberation Army.

  20. We truly have raised a generation of gullible fools. Attempts to market and sell a car/aircraft began in the 1950’s and the idea is as stupid and impractical today as it has ever been. Pipe dreams. Musk territory.

  21. Who needs driving? What aviation needs is to be more practical. Distributed electric VTOL with conventional engine and prop for cruise will work. No more large airports or taking off and landing at high speed.
    See evtol.news

  22. Sigh, yet another media phenomenon, doomed to being irrelevant. Hyped by know-nothing journalists who are not inherently dumb but are almost guaranteed to be ignorant of the realities of engineering.
    Where to begin?
    It will require a pilots license which is not too difficult to earn, but is a significant investment of time and money.
    It will be both a crap car and a crap airplane. A car hauling airplane parts and a plane hauling car parts. The enemy in both cases is weight which kills aircraft performance. One example is the folding wing system, how much does that weigh since every pound added is one less pound of passengers or fuel.
    Judging it as an aircraft: How fast? Payload? Fuel burn rate? Range? Servcie ceiling?
    And as a car: How safe? Fuel ecomomy? Comfort and convenience? Braking, handling and acceleration? Cruise control? Operation in poor weather? (oops to be more practical you will need it IFR certified and need an IFR rating).
    And then there is aircraft maintenance. As a certified aircraft it will need to be maintained to FAA standards by an A&E mechanic. Everything to FAA standards. And that will cost dearly.
    400K will buy you both a better car and a better airplane!

  23. I don’t think its the first. I remember seeing a flying car in the Museum of Aviation in Seattle along with film of it flying.

  24. “World’s first flying car.”

    Welcome to our new fact free (history doesn’t exist, right?) world. Sorry Molt Taylor, your flying car happened too long ago to be considered real, or something.

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