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'Flying Car' One Step Closer to Reality

The Terrafugia, a small airplane that can drive on roads and has been billed as the first "flying car," is now one step closer to becoming street- and sky-legal.

The vehicle has cleared a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory hurdle for craft classification by weight. A full-fledged production prototype might be just around the corner, according to multiple reports.

At issue was Mass.-based company Terrafugia wanting its Transition vehicle to be classified as a "Light Sport Aircraft" by the FAA so people eager to fly it would need only 20 hours of flying time.

Yet the two-seater vehicle came in 110 pounds (50 kilograms) overweight in accommodating roadworthy-assuring safety items such as crumple zones. The FAA said that so long as customers are advised about this extra weight, the car-plane hybrid can be sold.

The Terrafugia completed its maiden voyage last March in upstate New York. According to its maker, the Terrafugia can transform from a roadable vehicle that can hit a highway speed of 65 mph to a winged aircraft in 30 seconds.

The plane version can cruise at about 115 mph (185 kph) and cover about 400 miles (644 kilometers) worth of turf before needing a refill of regular unleaded gas.

The price of a Terrafugia is expected to be around $200,000 and deliveries could start next year, assuming the vehicle passes crash tests. The company has envisioned its vehicle as finding a home with amateur pilots who live near air fields, but as any Jetsons' fan knows, flying cars might well be the wave of the future.

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Adam Hadhazy
Adam Hadhazy is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He often writes about physics, psychology, animal behavior and story topics in general that explore the blurring line between today's science fiction and tomorrow's science fact. Adam has a Master of Arts degree from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College. When not squeezing in reruns of Star Trek, Adam likes hurling a Frisbee or dining on spicy food. You can check out more of his work at www.adamhadhazy.com.