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.
Not to denigrate the effort that has gone into this very interesting project but my understanding of this is that it is not a very good airplane or car. I think this points out some problems when the requirements of a design can be met but one really has to question the validity of the requirements. the fact that it can be done is one thing, should it be done is another.
This is a roadable aircraft. Is it really a good idea? Unlike an amphibian aircraft this one is exposed to road hazards which necessitate extra care in a pre flight inspection. The navy and coast Guard both operated various types of Amphibious aircraft and have lots of experience with how much it costs and the extra attention required for safety.
There is another inquiry I think by the Army or DoD in that they want some kind of Hummer size or slightly larger vehicle that can fly and travel on the ground, rough terrain I think. Again, this seems like disparate requirements that while possible to meet, result in a machine that is not very good at either flying or ground travel.
In another respect this is also perhaps what was wrong with the space shuttle. It was man rated and could carry people and cargo, but it turns out not to be as good at either. A man rated, without cargo vehicle would have been much different in design than the space shuttle and a cargo only heavy lifter would not look like the space shuttle. In both cases, meeting the requirements are possible and much better designs result from separating these disparate requirements into complementary designs rather than an aggregation.
Valid points, Ivank2139. I think that's the perenial struggle whenever you're designing something that has two sets of very distinct requirements and the reason that Terrafugia petitioned the various safety agencies to get the grants and exemptions that it did. Your point about the road hazards putting undue wear and tear on the vehicle and the ramifications around safety is one to watch. Even the best simulation and physical testing will be hard pressed to uncover all the possibilities.
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.
The flying car has been attemped for decades. And the consensus is that it does not make a very good airplane or car, since there are so many conflicting requirements. Considering all the obstacles, not just those posed by the DOT and FAA, it is a miracle that the product is nearly ready to be sold on market.
Congratulations to the designers on this project, you are respected and admired by this engineer.
I am sure there will be a market for the Terrafugia.
FYI: Martin makes a gasoline powered jet pack, they had to design their own engine from scratch. Quite impressive. Will sell for 100k. Range is 31 miles, max speed is 63 mph. Has a rocket parachute in case of engine failure.
I think quite often when a project like this is taken on the benefits are seen in many ways other than the successful marketing of the final product. Sue they migh sell a few thousand air cars. But the number of invensions that may come from the development of this product may benefit others in ways we can only imagine. Quite often the best invensions come by accident when we are trying to do something totally outside of the box.
Also, think about all of the news stories, articles and other press that are generated by something like this. When I was young I always wanted to look at all the cool articles and ideas that were being invented. It's what led me into engineering. And I think projects like this will help youngsters understand everthing isn't invented yet. There are still plenty of challenges out there.
@jmiller: I love your way of thinking and I couldn't agree more. Aiming for hard-to-achieve or even impossible-to-achieve innovations is what engineering should be all about and a wonderful lesson to teach our kids. This isn't the first time the flying car has been attempted and it certainly won't be the last.
Given the really lightweight of the terrafugia it would probably be a really great car with respect to gas mileage if one removed all the airplane stuff. Weight as I recall is the only first order variable in gas mileage for cars. A car this light should easily get 60 or more mpg just guessing.
The whole idea of a big heavy car or truck transporting one person to work is kind of inefficent in itself. Compare that to a bicycle. Less than 30 lbs of vehicle for a single person. Yes, it is range, comfort limited and self powered. And not so useful for other things.
What would help is a class of cars and special road restrictions (for separation from heavy traffic) that would make it attractive to have commuter cars. Very lightweight and high mileage cars for one or two people only. Low cost too. Many families have two cars already. Now we can envision 3 cars, two very small and efficient commuter types and one family car or truck.
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