Might the flying car finally make the jump from fantasy to reality?
- Flying cars are technically feasible; [start-up company] Terrafugia points out that inventor Molt Taylor built prototypes in the 1950s and 1960s--but they haven't been practical from an economic perspective.
The picture has changed, however, with the development of lighter and stronger construction materials and more efficient engines. Terrafugia is aiming to build a vehicle that will fly at 120 miles per hour and get 30 miles a gallon in the air. (It will also get 40 miles per gallon on the freeway and 30 in the city).
The Transition vehicle will carry a payload of only 430 pounds, far less than cars, but how many cars can take flight after 1,500 feet of takeoff space?
Demand also has finally begun to emerge. Today's clogged freeway traffic and dispersed suburban living patterns have created an audience for these types of vehicles. Regional airports are also somewhat plentiful and underutilized. In addition, Federal Aviation Administration regulations passed in 2004 have made it easier to get a sport pilot's license.
The Transition is a "personal air vehicle," basically an SUV with retractable wings that will be designed for 100 to 500 mile jumps. Terrafugia tells us to expect a fully operational prototype by 2008 or earlier and the company says folks will be able to buy them by 2009 or 2010.