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Flying Cars – Not Science Fiction Any More

When the year 2000 rolled around amid fears of the Y2K bug making computers and civic systems crash (remember that?), we heard a few people asking “Where are the flying cars?” in a reference to all the guesses that people had made back in the 1950s or so about what transportation would be like in the 21st Century.

Well, the wait is over. The flying car is here, or at least it’s in the USA. This doesn’t mean that Ford Falcons are really able to soar on thermals like their namesakes or that the wings on the Mazda logo are still anything other than metaphorical.

But a flying car has been invented. Or perhaps one could call it a road-worthy light plane.

Surprisingly enough, it’s not Saab that’s put out the first real flying car, in spite of the fact that there are more things with the Saab logo in the air than there are on the roads (that’s just a guess and don’t quote me… but Saab does make everything from fighter planes down to little light planes and is primarily an aircraft company).  Instead, it’s a company called Terrafugia that has put wings on cars… or road-legal wheels on a plane.

“Terrafugia” means “escape from the earth” and that’s pretty much what these flying cars are designed to do. And they’re more than just a dream. One was demonstrated at the recent Oshkosh air-show, the Terrafugia Transition. OK, they cost more than a modest family home to buy, but there probably are people out there who are interested and are going to take them on.

So what can the Transition do? Obviously, it can fly and it can go on the road legally. On the road, it looks a bit peculiar – it looks more like an amphibious vehicle with the wings tucked up beside it like the legs of a cricket or praying mantis.  A touch of the button extends the wings and the propeller on the back gets ready to spin into action.  Hey presto – the car is airborne (watch it here).


Obviously, the Transition isn’t massive. It can carry two people and possibly a set of golf clubs or a wee bit of luggage.  The official website says that it can cruise at 160 km/h, although I guess that this is in the air rather than on the road.  As a plane, the torque is fairly juicy, of course, as the Transition has to accelerate fast enough to generate the lift needed to get off the ground, and it needs a shade over half a kilometre of runway to get airborne.  Once in the air, it has a range of 660 km.

There are dual steering controls – the regular steering wheels and brakes for when the Transition is on the road, and a stick and rudder pedals for steering in three dimensions (i.e. when it’s in the air). There aren’t a lot of other bells and whistles – all the thingummybobs pilots need to fly legally take up the rest of the dashboard.

The Transition fits into an ordinary single garage, so it’s likely to appeal to the sort of pilot who doesn’t want the hassle of carting out a trailer every time they want to take the plane out for a little spin.  Obviously, two licences are needed: a PPL (private pilot’s licence) and a driver’s licence.

Don’t look out for these in our car reviews page just yet, though. Maybe in 50 years’ time.


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