““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Aero car takes to the air
The Transition "roadable" aircraft-which can be converted from a car to an airplane or vice versa in less than 30 seconds-made its debut flight on March 5. The trip aloft was the first of several exercises in which the vehicle will be flown only over a runway, according to manufacturer Terrafugia, a Woburn, Mass. startup firm. Plans call for one or more prototypes to be flight tested, leading to FAA certification in the Light Sport Aircraft category and first deliveries in 2011. The LSA category means an FAA-licensed pilot is required to operate the Transition in flight mode.
A single 100-hp Rotax engine turning a four-blade propeller powers the two-seat machine. It will cruise up to 450 miles at more than 115 mph, can drive at highway speeds on the road and can fit into most home garages, according to Terrafugia, which was founded by five pilots who are all MIT graduates. Using unleaded premium gas, the Transition will achieve about 30 mpg, the company claims. From inside the cabin, the pilot can change between flying and driving configuration by flipping a switch that folds or unfolds the wings.
Terrafugia-one of several companies with flying cars in the works-said it has orders for 40 of its Transition vehicles, which carry a base price of $194,000.