(The Guardian) Those of us waiting patiently for the era of flying cars have been stung before. Usually by some delusional old tinkerer appearing on Tomorrow's World or Blue Peter, tantalisingly showing off some hovering hatchback or Cortina-with-wings and promising it'll be an everyday form of transport – soon. It never happens. As the characters in Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip complained way back in 1989: "A new decade is coming up. Big deal! Where are the flying cars?"
Finally, in 2011, some action. Later this year an American company called Terrafugia will go into "low volume production" on its Transition Roadable Aircraft – a genuine, non-delusional, you-can-actually-buy-it-and-it-actually-flies flying car. It looks a bit like the Ghostbusters' vehicle with fold-out wings, and will cost something between £125,000 and £160,000. Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich hopes to sell 200 a year.
"A lot of people said they never thought it would fly," Dietrich has said. "But we have a vehicle right here, right now that drives and flies, and converts between the two in 20 seconds."
Terrafugia (Latin for "escape from land") was founded by Dietrich and a team of pilots and aeronautics engineers. Partly funded by the US Department of Defence, they've been quietly beavering away on the car in Woburn, Massachussetts since 2006, and are almost ready to start selling.
Owners of a new Transition will need 20 hours of flying time on record before being allowed to unfurl the car's mechanical wings and take off, but it's easy to pilot once they do – or so says Colonel Phil Meeter, the first man to fly the Transition in tests over upstate New York in 2009. On landing he enthused: "My daughter could do this! Anyone can do it!" The retail machine will have a flight range of just less than 500 miles (enough to get from London to, say, Zurich) and will travel at speeds of up to 115mph.
This being an American firm, targeting American customers, Terrafugia's flying car is not without its luxuries. It has touch-screen controls in the cockpit, and the "cargo area holds golf clubs". With the wings in tucked-up mode the Transition can be filled up in any normal petrol station, and parked in any normal garage. It also has built-in parachutes. But let's not dwell on that.
Original Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jan/30/flying-car-terrafugia-transition-aircraft
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