back to article Terrafugia flying car gets road-safety exemptions

The Terrafugia Transition "roadable" aircraft – a stylish combination of light aeroplane and car – has been granted useful exemptions by the US Department of Transportation. The Terrafugia Transition flies It's a car. It can fly. What else do you want? Well, VTOL, silence, robopilot ... Following representations by …


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  1. Erroneous Howard

    Pie in the sky?

    I certainly hope not, although as much as I would love to see us all flying through the air "Jetsons style" I think we're still a good few years away from a useful and affordable solution. This, as you say cannot lift two average size men and that does not account for briefcases, bags etc. making it an expensive toy.

    Really it's just a plane that can be driven on the road rather than a viable flying car. I don't think a true flying car - which can carry four people (2 adults, 2 kids) plus light luggage, and will not cost hundreds of pounds/dollars in fuel every trip - is possible with the current propulsion technologies in use.

    Good luck though.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Not without automatics

      If I see the way people drive on the road I dread the thought of such drivers overhead.

      What could possibly go wrong?

    2. cloudgazer

      it can lift two average men

      just not two average americans.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    330lbs of payload?

    It can't get aloft carrying ONE average-sized American man, then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A man and his wife.

      "the average weight for men aged 20-74 years rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002."

      A combined weight of 355.3 pounds, so they only have to be slightly lighter than average....

      ...and naked.

      1. Mitch Kent

        I wonder

        How much those figures will grow in the ten years since they were published?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Even if it could carry 355lb (which it can't) that man and wife would have to be naked and carrying nothing with them. What use is a vehicle that doesn't carry any luggage or shopping or whatever?

        Better to call it a single seater and then with only one seat it would be able to carry more weight.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Or one Briton

  3. Marvin the Martian

    Why a car?

    Why not start from a motorbike?

    Most sporty bikes get halfway to taking off anyway if you carelessly fire them from standing still. And they're full of small-size lightweight tech, doing about 100 HP per engine CC. And they can anyway carry at most two normal-sized adults.

    1. sprouty76

      I can imagine...

      ...that trying to land on 2 wheels would be interesting, especially with a crosswind.

      1. GrantB

        landing on 2 wheels?

        Thought most gliders can do it. That's without gyros or any other kinds of Segway tricks.

        Hang gliders and birds even manage it on 2 legs.

        Power to weight on something like a 1200cc super bike is good, but add flying surfaces and that will suffer very quickly.. not to mention that bike engines are designed for high output for brief periods of time.. not super reliable, high torque requirements of aircraft engines.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge

          Flying bikes

          "bike engines are designed for high output for brief periods of time". Well, racing bike engines are, the usual design is a flat or V 4 (or 5) with small cylinders and high-revving engines that give a high peak output but not a lot of torque low down in the range. Touring bikes though usually have big-bore V-twins (or BMWs boxers) that have huge amounts of low-rev torque and are designed to chug away for quite long periods.

          Rather than the engine I think a bigger limitation to a flying bike would be the chassis. A big Harley, Honda Shadow or BMW 1300 can weigh in at about 250-300kg, adding wings would probably double that. Even folding them away would leave lots of unwieldy bits, and push the centre of gravity very high up - as a proper bike it would be quite undrivable.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        "...that trying to land on 2 wheels would be interesting, especially with a crosswind."

        You might like to look at the landing gear on the U2.

        *very* interesting landing process.

      3. Silverburn

        @ sprouty76

        Evil K'nevil managed it no problem.

        Well...some of the time at least...

        Good point though...landing a two-wheel jump is normally ok, as long as you've got the centrifugal forces of the spinning wheels. Stopping the wheels from spinning (as they would during flight) is not going to make it easier.

      4. Smallbrainfield

        Turbocycles in 'Galactica 1980' managed it alright.

      5. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can imagine...

        Sidecar??? Who said that all motorcycles are 2 wheels? 3 wheels is usually classed as a motorcycle too.

        In fact, the best on-road shape for a flyable vehicle is 3 wheels - 2 in front, 1 in back.

        Why reinvent the wheel for crying out loud?

      6. The Indomitable Gall

        Landing on two wheels???

        If your Skycycle(TM) needs folding wings anyway, there's no reason you couldn't have wing-mounted landing gear. They would double as ballast to stabilise flight.

      7. Muscleguy

        X-wind, that reminds me . . .

        Some years ago now I was proceeding southwards in Southern New Zealand on a motorbike with my fiance on the back. There was a strong westerly wind which was not a problem until we were going along the top of some hills where the road went through a series of cuttings. This made riding very dodgy every time we came out of the cutting and were exposed to the strong crosswind.

        At one point we got blown across the road and I only just managed to stop on the verge, poised above a steep bank with a nice barbed wire fence at the bottom. Never in my life have I been more grateful to finally descend to Balclutha (a nondescript agricultural town). So I agree, landing a two wheeled road flyer in a crosswind would not attract me. Not as a fixed wing machine anyway, make it a mini copter so landing could be done vertically at low horizontal speed and I might consider it.

    2. Wyrdness

      Er, no

      "100 HP per engine CC"

      I think that you may be slightly confused there. The BMW S1000RR (one of the most powerful bikes you can buy) has a 999cc engine making over 180 HP. Most 1000cc bikes make far less power than that.

    3. frank ly


      Don't you mean 100HP per litre?

    4. Anonymous Coward


      100hp per cc? That's a really powerful engine!

      So I am really looking forward to seeing cars with engines smaller than 1cc.

      Oh, maybe you meant litres. 1000cc = 1 litre.

    5. Steve Todd

      What planet are you living on?

      "100HP per engine CC"? A modern production engine is doing well to exceed 100BHP per 1000cc. Aero engines need to run at relatively slow RPMs (props don't like to turn much faster than 2500RPM), but high torque and high continuous power (your 100HP aero engine would have to be able to deliver 75-100% of that power for 90%+ of it's life) and you need to get it certified for aviation use (a long, slow, expensive process requiring extra factors like dual ignition systems). Motorcycle engines are far from suitable. That doesn't even consider the problem of carrying a suitable set of wings around with you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "A modern production engine is doing well to exceed 100BHP per 1000cc"

        I think we all know that the OP meant litre and not CC. However your posting is almost as ridiculous. Modern production engines doing well to exceed 100BHP per litre? Motorcycle engines have been exceeding 100bhp/litre for over 30 years - and that's for the bigger engines. Smaller engines were getting close to 200bhp/litre back in the eighties. And that's if we don't count the really tiny ones. Engines get more efficient in terms of BHP per litre the smaller the cylinders.

        Way back before the FIM started to limit the number of cylinders in each category there were some race bikes with teeny cylinders - a 125cc V4 anybody? Honda discovered that an oval cylinder (well not so much oval as two adjacent circles joined with straight sides) was almost as efficient as two round cylinders displacing the same as that "oval". They built the NR500 V4 which they reckoned had similar power characteristics as a V8. And maybe it did, but it still didn't produce as much power as a V4 two stroke. By the end of their life some ten years ago the V4 two stroke GP500 bikes were producing close to 400bhp per litre!

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Doh - "And they can anyway carry at most two normal-sized adults."

    ON THE GROUND - we are talking about flying here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC 10:32

      I think he is talking about convenience rather than anything else - normally one would expect a car to carry between 2 and 5 people along with varying degrees of shopping / luggage etc so it is a big step to moving to a flying car that can only take 2 small (ish) people plus a packed lunch.

      However bikers are used to this carrying capacity inconvenience - although typical bikers (that look like Grizzly Adams after he has eaten his bear and left the arse hanging out) might not fit in one of these things even on their own.

  5. Gideon 1

    Re: I can imagine...

    Most gliders have only two wheels.

  6. Smallbrainfield

    I wouldn't call it stylish.

    It's an ugly bugger is what it is.

    1. Ian Stephenson
      Black Helicopters

      No it isn't

      An AH-64 apache is ugly. This is just hideous.

      1. Captain TickTock
        Thumb Up


        There, fixed it for you

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Anti-grav FTW

    Basically, we're triyng to fit a square peg in a round hole designing a flying car around current propulsion tech.

    Roll on anti-grav plates!

    You'd probably also need grav plates for propulsion/steering too. And they'd be perpendicular to the planetary axis of gravity, so would be even trickier still.

    As long as they're online by the time I retire, I don't mind. So get your fingers out boffins!

    1. ravenviz Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Anti-grav FTW

      Plates? What plates? Have you been watching too much TV again?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ ravenviz

        in the absense of any working anti-grav devices, I've opted for plates - plates will be easier to build into an aerodynamic vehicle and - theoretically - easier to package.

        Unless you're thinking of matrix-style globe-thingies?

        Doesn't really's all Sci-Fi for now anyway, so we can use whatever we want until something practical comes along.

  8. Toby 10

    I think an autogyro would work better.

    Bit more complicated to fly but hey, a flying car isn't going to be a couple of extra hours with the driving instructor is it?

  9. The Indomitable Gall

    Typical Lewis Page article...

    Yup, that's Lewis Page all over: whining about yet another aviation project that's behind schedule, doesn't meet the promised spec, and facing spiralling cost increases...

    Oh wait....

    1. Captain TickTock

      Just you wait...

      ..till the Moller Sky Car goes into production.


      gets off the ground...

      The DeLorean got higher, due to its unique fuel, (and I'm not talking plutonium ripped off from Libyan nationalists...)

      It does make the driver very loud, confident and downright obnoxious, though...

      .. and sniffly.

  10. Ben Liddicott

    What about the Maverick?

  11. nyelvmark

    it can't get airborne carrying two normal American men

    But, what if they're republicans?

    1. Captain TickTock

      Any politician will do

      You just have to harness the hot air.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: it can't get airborne carrying two normal American men

      "But, what if they're republicans?" I hear some Democrats Congressmen like to be seen just in their undies, that would save some weight.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @ Matt

        ...I think he was wearing even less than his undies, IIRC.

        What is it with politicians all over the world - when you get elected (at council or governmental level), do you *have* to get a easily accessible 'political-self-destruct' button installed on your person?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          RE: @ Matt

          ".....'political-self-destruct' button..." Twitter shows there's an app for that!

          Given that the Terriblefudgeup seems to have the aerodynamics of a brick, you will probably need to carry spare undies for every time it hits a crosswind!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It may have flown but I still want my Hoverbike! (too cool to be true)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Star wars speeder

      I recon a Star Wars speeder is on the cards; cool sound, gears, brakes and uncomfy position like a real bike, ability to blast through forests at speeds faster than human reactions, and - based on the ROTJ footage - the same mortality rate as a normal bike ride up the Cat and Fiddle.

      Naturally, it should be made by ducati (and there fore red and expensive) and come with the obligatory loud and expensive termi's...even if it's not internal combustion.

      Slight drawbacks incude: being 3 feet off the ground might inhibit knee-down action and the need to convert to the dark side of the force.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re Cat and Fiddle

        Riding around Peak District it's not that uncommon to become airborne by bike ballistics - all in all not that different from the Star Wars Speeder and hence the comparable death toll?

        Kids, don't try this at home er cat and fiddle...

      2. PBelc
        Thumb Up

        You mean like this?

        Made me laugh that the guy hadnt tested it untethered yet as he didnt know what would happen.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Hoverbike

      It seems to have hovered, which is a good sign even if it's inside the ground-effect zone. With some clever stability gizmos it could be a real hoot. As long as the legislators don't load it up with heavy roll-bars and other safety features.

  13. The last doughnut

    Simple solution

    A recumbent bike with suitable turbo-charged engine. Either that or a small air cooled nuclear reactor. In yellow please.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Air cooled reactors

      I believe Japan has some of those...

  14. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    The RG flying cra desk now how to reduce the weight!


    worked for PARIS

    I finally got a SFW excuse for the use of this icon

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I hope they have good liability insurance. As soon as somebody crashes one the lawsuits will be flying thick and fast.

    Take the tyres for example. My car's tyres are rated for the vehicle's maximum load and maximum design speed. I never run it at either, but that's a useful safety marging. The tyres on this thing will have no safety margin. The first crash which could possibly be attributed to the tyres will see the first lawsuit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "a useful safety marging"

      because it's healthier (and therefore safer) than butter?

  16. Chris Rowland

    Just don't fill it up!

    They did say fully fuelled...

    All you have to do is not fill it up; trade range for carrying capacity.

    And my glider takes off and lands on one wheel.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    This is not a flying car...

    It ia a mini airplane you can drive on the road. I want my flying car. It is 2011 damn it....

  18. Paul Murray
    Thumb Down

    Fifth element

    For a look at what flying cars mean, watch "The Fifth Element". A flying car only means freedom and fun when you are the only person with one.

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