I wonder if this is one of those things that seem really cool but isn't really practical. I love the idea of driving down the 405, hitting a traffic jam, deploying the wings and flying to the next open stretch of the road. But realistically, you'd have to get to an airport, and then get clearance. The wheels in the photo look too small to be a meaningful highway car. Looks like the fuel economy would be about the same as a monster RV. What are the situations where this would make sense?
All good points, Doug, and you beat me to the punch in terms of asking our readers for a reality check. Terrafugia is targeting a very specific audience. Those hobbyist pilots who can't afford (or don't want to incur the cost) of having their own plane and paying for hangar costs along with the expenses associated with renting a car when they reach their destination. This definitely isn't intended to be an Jetson's-like vehicle where you spread your wings and fly off the highway if stuck in a traffic jam. And it's not intended to be a primary vehicle, hence the design choice of smaller wheels and your duly-noted observation that this isn't something you'd want to log miles in on any major freeway.
Being able to take off in the middle of a traffic jam would be ideal, but that thought never even occurred to me when reading this story. (That may be a few more years in the future - think the Jetsons!) For the money, if you can afford it, this would be perfect for taking long weekends on Cape Cod or the Florida Keys (depending on where you live). You miss the headache of the traffic and you have a car when you get there. Beth, do they yet know what the cost of the Transition will be? And, like Doug, I am wondering about the fuel economy, though, if you are planning on investing in something like this, that probably isn't in the forefront of your mind.
I had seen pictures and video of the Terrfugia flying car, but until I read this story I never realized how small it is. Maximum takeoff weight with (presumably) two people on board is 1,430 pounds? A Smart Car, by comparison has a curb weight (no one on board) of 1,600 pounds. With a couple people on board, a Smart Car could easily weight 500 pounds more than the Terrafugia Transition. Another comparison: A sub-compact Chevy Cruze weighs around 3,000 pounds. Sheesh, this Terrafugia is really small.
It is really small. The cockpit is actually larger than it looks, much like a Smart Car, but it's really enough to accomodate a pilot, a passenger, and minimal--I mean minimal--gear. As far as Jenn's question around cost, Terrafugia says it hasn't squared away final pricing, but an FAQ on its site says it should be in the vicinity of $250,000.
Even given the fact that we can't use it for jumping traffic, I wonder how practical it actually is given the price and the cost. Jennifer mentioned taking it on vacation, but personnally, even if could afford it (and the fuel), I wouldn't want to be driving around on the streets with a quarter-million dollar plane. A bump in the parking lot might do something you don't see and wreck your day at 3000 feet.
This reminds me of the cute amphibian car from the early 1960s. It could drive into the water and become a boat. Cool looking, cool idea, but it didn't take off (so to speak). It was another design looking for a need to fill. Here's a YouTube of it.
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