Flying Cars Come One Step Closer to Reality

After successful test flights, Terrafugia's new car-plane could hit the market within a year.

Drivers hoping to slip the surly -- and traffic congested -- bonds of Earth moved a step closer to realizing their dream April 2, as a U.S. firm announced the successful test flight of a street-legal airplane.

Woburn, Mass.-based Terrafugia says its production prototype "Transition" car-plane has successfully carried out an eight-minute test flight, clearing the way for it to hit the market within a year.

"With this flight, the team demonstrated an ability to accomplish what had been called an impossible dream," said founder Carl Dietrich. (To learn more about the flying car, read IndustryWeek's two-part interview with Dietrich, "This Flying Car is No Flight of Fancy.")

Terrafugia argues that the Transition offers unparalleled freedom of movement, with a range of 490 miles and without the need to check bags.

Spanning 90 inches as a car, it fits into a normal-sized garage, before unfurling a 26-foot, 6-inch wingspan.

To take advantage, would-be owners will need to have both a driver's and pilot's license -- with a minimum of 20 hours of flying time.

The craft needs 2,500 feet of runway for takeoff, meaning pulling onto the shoulder and escaping traffic is not really an option.

While many companies have tried to market an aerocar, none have succeeded in producing more than a handful of models.

"The Transition street-legal airplane is now a significant step closer to being a commercial reality," the company said.

The two-seater craft costs around $279,000, and some 100 vehicles have already been ordered.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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