f you secretly nurtured a dream of owning a flying car, the good news is your dream can be a reality by 2011. This month MIT students, from Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, have successfully flight tested the prototype of a winged car for the first time. This car took off from a runway in Plattsburgh, New York. It flew for 37 seconds. The engine used in this whole exercise was 100 hp Rotax engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline.
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The plane has a 20-gallon tank and 450-mile range. Its speed is 115 mph. The pilot can switch from one mode to another with perfect ease within 30 seconds. How this is achievable? From a pilot you can become a car driver by folding up the wings and shifting the engine power from the rear-mounted propeller to the front wheels.
The MIT students have floated a company named as Terrafugia. They will conduct further tests of the plane for longer duration of fights and hold trial for handling characteristics too. The timing of launch of this flying car is just right. The Federal Aviation Administration has created a new category of plane, Light Sport Aircraft. They have also made provision for a new license category just for pilots of such craft, including Terrafugia’s two-seater Transition. The “sport pilot” license requirement is quite lenient compared to regular pilot’s license. If you want to fly the Transition it will take only about 20 hours of training time.
Carl Dietrich is the Terrafugia CEO and co-founder. He is of the view that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rule change and the Transition could help alter the way public travels round the country particularly in country areas. He says, “One of the biggest problems pilots have right now is that most of the 5,000 general aviation airports in the U.S. don’t have any car rental facilities, or even a cab stand.” He made his stand clear by saying that the Transition could open many of these underutilized airports to easier, more convenient use by private pilots.
The vehicle may also lead to better safety. If you are a piloting such flying car, you can withstand the bad weather too. If you can detect the conditions of bad weather a little in advance, just fold up the wings and land at the nearest airport and start driving on the roads. Once the storm has passed, take off again from another airport!
If you want to be the owner of a flying car, the company is taking deposits now and hopes to start delivering its first Transitions (“roadable planes”) in late 2011.