Terrafugia, www.terrafugia.com

The Transition, a flying car from Terrafugia, Woburn. Mass., is scheduled to go on sale late next year, making it the first FAA-approved and street-legal “flying car” to hit the market. The 1,440-lb aircraft needed a waiver from the FAA, however, to let it qualify as a light sport craft despite being 120 lb over the limit for such an aircraft.

Management from the Terrafugia convinced the FAA that not all mandated safety equipment would fit into the car — air bags, crumple zones, and roll cage — without going over the limit. This means owners will only need about 20 hr of flight time, along with ground school, to qualify as pilots. Of course, the light sport craft designation also limits the plane. It must fly below 10,000 ft, at less than 100 knots, and only during VFR conditions (i.e., clear skies, daylight hours, and no inclement weather).

In flight, the two-seat Transition can cruise at 115 mph, travel up to 460 miles on a single tank of fuel (20 gallons), and carry 450 lb, thanks to its Rotax engine. The four-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid-cooled engine generates about 100 hp.

The Transition can take off or land on a 2,500-ft runway. Once on the ground, flipping a switch activates the electromechanical wings, folding them at the root and midspan within 30 sec, making it compact enough to fit in a standard garage. The same Rotax engine powers the front-wheel-drive vehicle on the ground and lets it get 30 mpg. The vehicle is legal for driving on U. S. streets.

The company claims to have orders, including $10k deposits, from 70 customers. Total price on the Transition is $194,000. The company plans to manufacture between 300 and 400 Transitions annually.

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.