The Terrafugia Transition–the car that flies or the plane that drives, depending on how you see it–is closer to taking flight as the Federal Aviation Administration recently granted a special weight limit exemption to the vehicle. The FAA will allow the Transition a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 pounds–the additional 110 pounds of weight allowing for the structure and equipment necessary for compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which are not typically requirements of other light sport aircraft. Specially, the allowance accommodates things like airbags, an energy absorbing crumple zone and a protective safety cage to increase safety both on the road and in the air, Terrafugia officials said.
The car-plane, which is now being promised to customers by the end of 2011, has wings that unfold for flying and fold back up for driving. The Transition is being positioned as a less expensive and more convenient way to fly for private pilots, who might be hampered by expensive hanger fees for storing a plane and who often have to seek out other forms of transportation when they’re off on their travels.
The Transition, which is designed to fly primarily under 10,000 feet, is being designed with the help of SolidWorks. The 3-D CAD software is being used to model the Transition and make the precise calculations necessary to meet both aircraft and road vehicle safety and performance standards. Because the Transition has to be light enough to get off the ground, yet stable enough to pass government regulations for crash safety, the engineering team is paying special attention to reducing the amount of materials whenever possible. The Terrafugia design team is doing that using SolidWorks Simulation to calculate the amount of material that could be reduced from key assemblies without compromising performance.
The design team is also leveraging Dassault Systemes’ CATIA Composites Design for its composite modeling needs. Transition engineers are experimenting with alternate materials and sizing for the aircraft’s wings and are employing the software to analyze the way different materials will bend or move under various conditions. CATIA Composites Design will help Terrafugia correct problems like wrinkles and bridges in the first stages of design by visualizing ply characteristics and fiber behavior.