back to article World's first proper flying car makes debut flight

The Terrafugia Transition "roadable aircraft" - the nearest thing to a flying car yet built - has made its first test flight. Terrafugia says that the flight took place on March 5, and will hold a media briefing at 1430 UK time. Meanwhile pictures of the flight are available on the company's website. The Terrafugia Transition …

COMMENTS

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  1. Martin Lyne

    It kinda looks..

    ..like a baby OV-10 Bronco. Aww!

  2. Stef
    Thumb Down

    yeah right...

    It just glides onto the roads. Airbags? Side impact bars? I'm guessing that if it gets hit by another car, then you are basically screwed?

    I thought the whole point of "flying cars" was that the flew. They didn't need the roads.

    This isn't a flying car, it is a driving plane.

  3. Marky W
    Alert

    I think the word is....

    ....fugly

  4. Doug Deeds
    Happy

    Insurance?

    The big question is - Do you have to have both aircraft and car insurance?

  5. david
    Go

    @Stef

    Its only a drivable plane (assuming it gets road saftey clearance) if it uses the airpropulsion system on the road, If there is a seperate drive train (maybe the same engine) to the wheels then it is a flying car.

  6. greg
    Thumb Down

    where are the regrav modules?

    this is no true flying car... just a plane with foldable wings.

  7. Anonymously Deflowered

    RE: Insurance?

    ...and if you crash whilst landing should you claim on your air or motor insurance policy?

  8. Martin
    Thumb Up

    the real big question

    is;

    How far off the ground do you need to be before they cannot nick you for speeding?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the betting...

    ...custom body shops will be transforming small cars into mock Transitions within 2 years of launch? Ultimate road poser mobile -- as long as the ladies don't demand a test flight....

  10. CeeJay

    Re: Insurance?

    I wouldn't normally side with the insurance companies, but I would hope both.

    I'm more worried by Stef's very valid point: Owner gets into a light fender-bender on the road. Like most pilots, (s)he's not qualified to certify airworthiness other than the walkaround and pre-flight, but decides it doesn't look too bad.

    Takeoff, dangerous out-of-trim condition, and FLONK straight into a school for bunnies.

    You'd hope most people would be more sensible than that, but all the evidence is to the contrary.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police chases...

    Would it be more fun to see the police chasing this, only for it to sprout it wings and fly off...

    even the footage from a Police helicopter would be fun.

    Let's hope someone steals one soon...

  12. SkippyBing

    @Stef

    If flying cars only flew, wouldn't that make them planes?

  13. Neil

    No good

    Until it looks like a DeLorean I'm not interested.

  14. Andus McCoatover
    Black Helicopters

    NIIIICE!!!!

    Side impact bars? Not needed with two sturdy wings either side, tho' visibility might be shafted...

    (http://www.terrafugia.com/images/photogallery/logo/TransitionGasStation.jpg)

    Plus, if you can keep that spinny fan at the back going, it'll sure confuse the hell out of Gatso's (not the front-looking ones, sadly)

    Don't like the idea of folding wings, however...They just might when least expected.

    Can I get one in black (hence the icon...)?

  15. Jeremy French
    Go

    Too easy?

    Surely the airstrip is a bit of a formality. If you have a long, empty straight road. Wouldn’t the temptation be a little too much. More to the point, isn’t that what flying cars are for:

    Satnav

    “slow moving traffic detected in five miles, would you like to reroute around of above?”

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Conspiracy

    You can clearly see the cars number plate on the side of the craft as being N-reg which is 1995-96

  17. Kane Silver badge
    Coat

    Roads?

    Where we're going we don't need roads.

    Mine's the one with the Flux Capacitor in the back pocket.

  18. David Hayes
    Joke

    I only want one if I can fit the wheels with spinners

    and stick a beefie exhaust on it, put underwing strip lights, and cruise up and down the car park of my local swimming pool all night long!

    Not!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only a matter of time

    Once the inevitable happens and someone takes-off or lands on a road, these things will be banned.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Saves many ways

    Walk out of front door to garage, hop into driveable plane, drive to airstrip.

    Fly to airstrip closer to work, drive to office car park. In afternoon reverse process.

    No need to leave your car at the airstrip and get a taxi into work.

    Next step up is driveable helicopter. Fly from your backyard to airstrip (or vacant lot as the Americans put it) and drive into work.

  21. Christoph

    @ Neil

    They're planning to launch the DeLorean look-alike model last year.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, but..

    I doubt it would even come close to complying with construction and use regulations here in the UK. Are Merkin regs more relaxed? I wouldn't have thought so.

    In particular I suspect that making it comply with crash safety regs would prevent it from flying. All the extra weight of side impact bars, safety cage, airbags etc. would certainly hold it back. However there are now lots of regulations which control the outer shape of a vehicle to enhance pedestrian safety and I suspect these would probably muck up the aerodynamics somewhat.

    Then there is the question of handling. Looking at those wheels and their locations I doubt you'd be wanting to round any bends at "highway speed". Would it pass the infamous elk test? Again I suspect that modifying it to comply would muck up it's flying capabilities.

    So a big hooray and 10/10 for effort, but qualified by one question: How long before they can build one that is truly roadworthy?

    BTW I don't support the last couple of decades headlong rush towards secondary safety. Before we tackle secondary safety lets see what we can do to tackle primary safety and prevent the accidents in the first place. Worse still I suspect that the much trumpeted secondary safety features of modern cars actually lead many people to take less care when driving. If we were all driving round in cars with the secondary safety of a Renault 4 I doubt there would be nearly as many accidents. A friend of mine claims he now drives a lot more safely since he upped his voluntary exess to £500.

  23. breakfast
    Thumb Up

    It's a start...

    So it may be more of a driving plane than a flying car, but no point quibbling too far, this week we have already had a flying car news story and a mosquito laser news story. Those are both definite steps in the right direction.

  24. Rhyd
    Stop

    First?

    Maybe if you ignore the 1949 Aerocar...

  25. Wize

    How on earth will anyone be allowed on an airstrip?

    Look at all the checks to get hand luggage to the air side.

    Terrorists won't need to hijack. They just need to carjack.

    On the plus side, side visibility looks good. The wings fold up behind the cabin, so more visibility than the average van.

    Whats its MPG?

  26. Schoofs
    Thumb Up

    Read the company's FAQ

    According to Terrafugia it's a "roadable aircraft", not a flying car. And: "Perfect for trips between 100 and 500 miles, the Transition is not designed to replace anyone's automobile."

    In ground mode the front wheels are driven via a CVT transmission (does this make it a DAF?). In air mode power is delivered to the prop through a carbon fiber drive shaft.

    Nice to see a company at least trying.

  27. jai

    where we're going, we don't need roads.....

    i'll wait for the deloren hover-craft, thanks

  28. Winkypop Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    @ Martin

    If they can't get you for speeding, they'll get you for low flying!

  29. Matt Sims

    oh my

    moller wont be happy.

  30. Secretgeek
    Unhappy

    No, no, no, no, no!

    If it doesn't hover I'm not interested.

    Although if it hoovered I might be.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @AC - OK, but..

    'I doubt it would even come close to complying with construction and use regulations here in the UK. '

    Having put a kit car through the Single Vehiclular Approval (SVA) I can say the there is no reason why this cant pass.. As long as it has covered wheels (mud/sprayguards), windscreen wipers, window heater/blower, seatbelts, accurate speedo, balanced brakes, brake light, method of indicating ( hand signs / lights) rear view mirror, not too loud, and not to harmful on the emissions, and has no sharp bits for a pedestrian to cut themselves on then it will be fine....

    anythign else safety /comfort is optional...

    there are no 'crash safety regs' in the UK.

    if the vehicle passes an SVA it does not need type approval.

    'Would it pass the infamous elk test?'

    In the UK??

    surely this is a demonstration not a test. the Merc A class is road legal! as are transit vans..

    With very low front/rear overhang wide and long wheelbase with a very low centre of Mass I don't think it'll have any problems with corners.. like most 'pancake' kit cars if its longer than it is wide has a wheel at each corner has a low centre of mass then it will handle fine..

    The only thing that worries me about this vehicle is tha sails...would it blow of the road?? it looks lightweight and has big sails (folded wings) in car mode... if its to windy to fly surely its to windy to drive???

  32. RichyS
    Unhappy

    Shame

    Shame they got the bloke who styled the Ssangyong Rodius to do this as well.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make it a Q reg

    It takes a lot to fail a kit car test, salp a q plate on it and job done.

  34. Russ Hall
    Thumb Up

    Not the first

    Remember the auto-gyro of the 1930's? It worked well but didn't catch on to become popular.

  35. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    AC@12:13

    "I doubt it would even come close to complying with construction and use regulations here in the UK. Are Merkin regs more relaxed? I wouldn't have thought so."

    Actually I would say they are. A thing called the Experimental Aircraft Association holds a very big meeting in Oshkosh Wisconsin. most are home builts which (IIRC) don't have type approval as such. Some have been retro-fitted with rockets.

    450miles. A fellow could take off in Mexico and commute quite a long way.

  36. Hollerith

    Risking life and limb...

    ...simply to drive a Robin Reliant when it's ont he ground? I don't think so.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Make it a Q reg

    Kit cars only have a Q if they're mostly made from second hand parts otherwise they get a normal plate..

    You're right about SVA though, you can drive some crazy stuff around.

  38. DZ-Jay

    It's about time, dammit!

    Now, next on the agenda, in order of priority:

    - Personal Jet-Pack

    - Robot butler

    - Moon/Space vacations

    - World peace

    - Feed the needy

    - Fix leaky sink faucet

    dZ.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Bad Idea

    - Some PFY doing doughnuts in some parking lot, then

    Immelman turns over said parking lot.

    - Will this vehicle withstand the "turbulence" of the couple joining the mile high club?

    - Loud rap music as the plane buzzes your house.

    People drive bad enough on the ground, much less in the air!

  40. bob

    fantastic

    You're a bunch of negative gits. Its a flying car! You can drive it like a car, and fly it like a plane! Which bit of that doesn't sound like a bucket full of awesome to you?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yawn

    I thought we were clear that the whole flying car thing was over already?

    Now, where's my fucking flying submarine?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @JonB Re: Make it a Q reg

    Kit cars only have a Q if they're mostly made from second hand parts otherwise they get a normal plate..

    two reasons for not getting a Q...

    First:

    If its all made from New Parts in one year then it gets a NEW current year plate..

    Second:

    If 5 major parts are all from the same donor vehicle (eg: engine, gbox, steering rack, Diff & shafts, wheel carriers and hubs) you can use its registration year (new reg not same plate!). My H reg Kit from an H reg donor was first registered (new) in 2005 ... caused havoc trying to tell the copper its first registered in 05 so didn't need an MOT for three years.. also causes problems as MOT emissions are for the H reg Engine not the 2005 registered year...

  43. Christopher Rogers
    Boffin

    Great

    But i'm not great with heights. so i want a car that can turn into a hovercraft. That would be slightly better than a car boat.

  44. Philip Teale
    Happy

    @Christoph

    No-one has yet appreciated the brilliance of your comment - please may I be the first :-)

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Idiots

    Back in the early days, there were similar fantasies about the helicopter. Sikorski even made promotional movies showing a (small) helicopter with a grocery basket on the nose, landing next to the family car outside the driveway.

    It never happened that way. Despite the dreams and fantasies.

    What has changed? Nothing much. There is no real market for such transport. Just on the cost side there are a host of issues. Landing fees. Insurance. Etc. Flying is _not_ cheap.

    And no ways in hell do I want a low-time "sports pilot" without the faintest idea of airmanship, flying his "car" around my neighborhood.

    Nothing new though. Many years ago this was discussed (again) in one of Usenet's aviation newsgroups. As an experiment to see if the flying car concept has merit. Supporters of the concept provide 20 plus pilots to fly into and land on a sport stadium field in R-22's (about the size of these flying car prototypes). And we'll provide the body bags.

  46. Scott
    Thumb Down

    No, no,no,no,no,no....

    A proper flying car does not use a long air strip to take off from. It will be a VTOL type aircraft. Get it right.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Insurance; RE: Accident damage etc.

    RE: Insurance. I would assume you would need specialist insurance for this vehicle and I assume it would be prohibitively expensive and restrictive.

    RE: Accident Damage. I would assume here that the law / conditions of insurance would prohibit flying after any accident before the carplane was certified as air worthy.

    RE: low flying / speeding. There are laws on low flying that can get you fined and your pilot's license revoked.

    RE: Flying car. Never happen in my life time. Too dangerous, too expensive to make & run, licenses will be very difficult to get, most drivers really shouldn't so planes will be no better, air traffic control couldn't handle any great numbers, policing would be very difficult, would have to travel point a-airport-airport-point b rather than just a-b, most trips are local rather than long distance, and it is just a basically impractical idea.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice idea but..

    You park it up in the supermarket car park & whilst shopping, somebody kindly remodels it in a prang and does a runner (as usual).

    That would pretty much knock further flights on the head until it's has a full check.

  49. Hombre sin nombre

    All well and good until

    the terrorists or the yoof get their hands on them. I prefer having them only be able to drive into the nice solid brick walls of the ground floor of my house, not crashing through my roof.

  50. Chris
    Gates Horns

    Idiot drivers

    So now I'm going to have to watch out for morons in the sky who try to text while flying in addition to the ones on the ground. Please tell me it won't be allowed until every one is centrally managed by a traffic-control computer that isn't running a Microsoft OS.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Secretgeek

    Although if it hoovered I might be.

    She knows about hoovering....

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC and the SVA and TA

    "if the vehicle passes an SVA it does not need type approval."

    Bollocks. The SVA is for SINGLE Vehicle Approval. If they want to sell it commercially over here they would need to go for type approval. Otherwise all manufacturers would try to pull that stunt. SVA and indeed the goog old LVTA are loopholes to allow kit cars and very low volume production cars onto the road. SVA only covers you for either user constructed vehicles (well sort of, you can have your kit car assemble for you by a professional) or user imported vehicles. So if you were to import one of these yourself or have it imported for you then SVA would be OK, if a company was set up to import them then it would not be. There is a subset of TA for low volume vehicles which is sort of a super SVA, mainly so you don't have to test a vehicle to destruction.

    Having said all that you could pass SVA and still get nailled under the C&U regs. It's a very remote possibility, but it's still the case. The greatest likelyhood of this happening would be after a fatal accident if somebody wanted to prove that your vehicle somehow contributed to the accident or the injuries. SVA gets you a MAC, it doesn't get you a waiver for C&U compliance. Once upon a time there was an assumption that an MOT certificate conferred road legality, these days it seems SVA has taken the place of the MOT in that particular myth.

    "there are no 'crash safety regs' in the UK"

    Also bollocks. There ARE crash safety regulations in the UK as part of TA.

    "surely this is a demonstration not a test. the Merc A class is road legal! as are transit vans.."

    What? The elk test is indeed a legal requirement in some parts of europe. And it doesn't AFAIK apply to commercials. Although I have done the chicane at Donninton at speed in a Transit and not rolled it. As we move to full European TA it will be mandatory accross the whole EU. Sorry but the Merc A class does indeed pass the Elk test. Very early examples didn't, but then Mercedes fitted a "stability control system" which to be fair just increases understeer. Reducing grip to increase safety strikes me as a stupid idea, but there you go.

    "With very low front/rear overhang wide and long wheelbase with a very low centre of Mass I don't think it'll have any problems with corners.. like most 'pancake' kit cars if its longer than it is wide has a wheel at each corner has a low centre of mass then it will handle fine.."

    Doesn't look like it has a wheel at each corner to me. Take a look at the back end in that photo again...

  53. Dave Bell
    Boffin

    Do it properly

    Anything less than vectored thrust from a fusion reactor is clearly inadequate propulsion.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Radio 4 Comedy Cabin Pressure

    Did this one just the other day! Only with a jumbo jet. Starts at around 24min into the recording.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00cm9p6

  55. raving angry loony

    tossers

    What a bunch of fucking whinging gits we have here. It's a car. It's a plane. It's everything that's been advertised as a "flying car", and how you're fucking complaining about it? Tossers!!

    I'll take two please.

  56. Lionel Baden

    flipp

    i wonder if the Massive bloody wings sticking up in the air would be like to drive along the motor way

    along those lines what happens if you drive into a sidewind at 60mph !

  57. Jon Minhinnick
    Black Helicopters

    'Leccy Tech

    Not interested until it appears in El Reg's 'Leccy Tech column.

    "Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced"

    Helicopter icon, well naturally.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    It's no Wright Flyer!

    I believe the whole enterprise is well-intentioned, but gloriously ill-advised . I watched the videos and saw the photos and at no time did I witness a banked aircraft. Sure, it flew off the ground -- very reminiscent of the 1st Wright flight -- then equally fast settled to the runway. Even the French were skeptical of real flight until Wilbur flew circles above them. Then they went wild with adulation! They have an animation showing the plane landing and folding its wings. What? Why not the real thing? Even the parking vid showed a very flimsy folded wing assembly. Nothing that seemed close to having proper aerodynamics for freeway speeds. The Globe article mentions a dearth of backers. Duh! Even properly designed and maintained GA aircraft have their unfortunate share of accidents and fatalities. This one seems designed more for Kamikaze wannabes. There, at least, the sacrificial heroes didn't have to pay for their own aircraft.

  59. Ken Lord
    Alert

    Not the first ... meet the Mizar

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzv4q5EEy1k

    Ford Pinto with optional Airplane attachment.

    Yes, a Pinto ... i guess there's less of a rear end explosion when in the air.

    But, in general, the concept will NEVER work. The vehicle must be strong enough to be safe on the road and light enough to fly efficiently. Compromising to do both just makes for an expensive, fuel guzzling beast that does poorly on the ground and in the air.

    And you've seen all the idiots you have to drive with ... do you really want them in the air ... tossing out trash, bottles of urine, lit cigarette butts above your home?

  60. Charles Manning

    Rich wanker's toy

    Those grumbling about how impractical this thing is are missing the point. This is not supposed to replace your car for commuting, nor a real plane for long trips.

    It is intended as a toy for tooling around and does not have to be practical. Look at microlights etc they're not practical planes, but people buy them for weekend fun. This is much the same except it is probably more comfortable and gives you a ride to and from the airfield.

  61. Craig Roberts
    Thumb Up

    Like the Idea

    I am seeing car and I am seeing an airfield and I am wondering if we are going to see a test drive on TOP GEAR

  62. Adrian Esdaile
    Thumb Up

    C'mon, think about this seriously...

    Fact - it's probably MUCH safer than a motorcycle / sidecar on the road, and you can insure those and drive them without dying horribly every day.

    Fact - plenty of plonkers fly light planes, and they aren't dropping out of the skies at 1 per sqkm per day. Well, not round here, anyway.

    Fact - plenty of light planes out there probably *just* pass airworthiness, but we don't cower in fear about them.

    Fact - plenty of HEAVY planes *cough* turkish/africa/indonesian airlines sometimes don't *quite* pass safety standards either.

    Fact - yes, we've all seen the idiots we have to drive with, and unfortunately we are still not allowed to shoot them through the head on sight.

    Fact - the aforementioned idiots are still going to drive around in their MONSTA-TRUK 4WD OFFROADE TOUROSPECIAL JACCUZZI-MATIC 9 TON CITY SPECIAL taking their kiddies to school at 125km/h while talking on the phone, drinking McDonalds coffee, doing their fingernails and reading No Idea at the same time.

    Fact - why is everyone so damn scared of the extremely minimal death-and-injury stats for light aircraft compared to the massively horrendous death-and-injury toll caused by the common car?

    Surely we could save more lives and community costs by encouraging people to fly planes than to drive cars.

    Maybe we should apply the same tests and requirements of commercial airline pilots to everyday car users - that would certainly produce safer roads!

    Personally I think this is a brilliant design, and I want one.

  63. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Pirate

    @Adrian Eskdale

    Why is everyone so scared of crashing in a light aircraft compared to driving? Easy, survivability. We like to think we have an odds on chance of living through a vehicle crash whereas falling out the sky? not so much. Your stats on air accidents would carry more punch if you focussed on single engined light aircraft which fall out of the sky on a regular basis. This is for the simple reason that engines fail and when you have only one and you are hundreds or thousands of feet up you are in trouble.

    The other thing is that the major risks of a plane journey occur at the beginning and end which are a minority of trip time and length which is not true of road travel. So the comparison is somewhat fatuous. That is before you factor in that there is much less to hit in the air than on the ground and much denser traffic etc. If airspace became as congested as the roads then the crash rate would inevitably rise. BTW two light aircraft recently collided in mid air and killed someone on the ground when they crashed in a built up area in New Zealand.

    No thanks.

  64. Frank Pollacco
    Go

    Totally Intriguing

    This is an exciting development, with real implications for the future of transportation. Even if it cannot, for logistical reason, become ubiquitous, I am sure that such vehicles will, like helicopters, find a strong niche in the future of travel. - Frank Pollacco

  65. Sam

    That's all well & good, But...

    Can it tow my caravan?

    Can I get a roof-rack to fit this?

    And while we're on the subject, exactly what kind of hat should I wear whilst driving/flying?

  66. Jerry Bryson
    Go

    What Do You Mean, "Proper?"

    It has only 3 wheels, so it may qualify as a motorcycle. Then, you would need only a helmet, not a cage, air-bag, etc. However, you would need a motorcycle license, which in Virginia, USA requires extra training.

    I don't call it a "proper" flying car because it has to turn into an airplane before it can fly. Rather like a Transformer. I'm waiting for a lifting body, multi-wing, or something that has a wingspan within the maximum allowable width for a car.

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