Tom Haines

Flying car or pipe dream?

October 15, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Terrafugia Transition

Seriously, folks, do you think a “roadable” airplane is doable? Would you buy one? Will it be possible to overcome all of the issues relative to making a car that meets modern automotive safety standards that can also safely and practically fly?

It’s been tried for decades–and even certified in the form of the Aerocar, but never marketed in a serious way. As you may have seen at Oshkosh this year, Terrafugia has a prototype called “Transition” they are experimenting with and a way cool animation of the thing landing and taxiing to the garage. The wing is being load tested and the Rotax-powered drivetrain powered up. See all the details in a story we ran a while back in AOPA Pilot, including the animation. The Terrafugia Web site has a video report from Fox News. (Fox calls it “Chitty, Bang, Bang”!–Hey, fair and balanced, right?….)

If Terrafugia is able to bring this two-place roadable airplane to the market for something close to $150,000, would you buy it? Will anyone buy it? Let me know your thoughts.

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92 Responses to “Flying car or pipe dream?”

  1. Carl Dietrich Says:

    Hi Tom,

    As an AOPA member and CEO/CTO of Terrafugia, I thought you might like to connect instead of speculate. Terrafugia is bringing the Transition to the GA market via the SP/LSA rule. We have quite a few customers already. In fact, if you place a $10K refundable deposit today, you would reserve airframe #0057. The anticipated price of the Transition is $194K not $150K. We are drive and taxi testing the proof-of-concept now. We expect the first flight to happen by the end of the year. Please let me know if you have any other questions about our company.

    Regards,

    -Carl

  2. Fred Sibley Says:

    One day with the help of better gps guidence and highspeed computers to control inputs the flying car will be the real thing not the pipe dream. Jet fighters already need the computer to fly. When we marry these together in small personal airplanes that require minimal input to fly the airocar will be born.

  3. Jeff Ward Says:

    I’ve met several members of the Terrafugia team (including Carl Dietrich) and I have no doubt that they can make this vehicle work. It remains to be seen how big the market will be, but as a GA flier who often wishes it was easier to roll out of the small airport I just flew into, it sure seems like a good idea to me!

  4. Rudy Says:

    Nice idea but not doable for me. Flying under SP/LSA rule in the Netherlands with a FAA PPL is not possible (by law). I have also my doubts about selling both my car and plane to buy this crossover. I think it is not a perfect plane (extra weight compared to normal plane with its price/size) and not a perfect car either (not enough space). I hope I am wrong.

  5. Robert Booth Says:

    The concept is entirely plausible, and when it hits the market, I like millions of people would love to buy one if they could afford it. As far as regulations go, if the idea does not fit some country’s paradigm regulation, I say do away with the country and its regulation – not the idea.

  6. Carl Jenkins Says:

    Historically many of the previous designs never made it out of the concept stage. I have seen the Terrafugia up close and have met several members of the team including Carl. The team is made up of an extremly talented group out of MIT and clearly if anyone can make a Transition, it will be them. Many of the previous concepts failed not just because of design issues but also because of finance ad production issues. The Terrafugia team’s approach from what I understand is to pay as much attention to the production side of things as to design. The idea will go nowhere if they cannot be manufactured and sold at a profit. By the way, the team’s confidence in their efforts is clearly reflected in the level of communication and openness that one typically doesnt see this early in the design and testing phase. I believe this will work and there will be enough demand to make the concept a success. As to foreign markets, perhaps some of the restrictions will be ammended to account for the Transition which I am sure was not contemplated when they were originally put in place.

  7. M way Says:

    Yes, I think with the invention of flubber this idea has some merit, otherwise it is a very tall hill to climb, however if we can develop some dilithium crystals and some sub light engines that might make it a little easier to accomplish. Keep dreaming however, everyone laughed at the Wright brothers too.

  8. Ron Says:

    I find it incredible that ‘Flying Car’ companies still find investors to back them. One of the oldest lessons is simply “those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it”. When I saw the flying car at Oshkosh being pushed around to different venues, I couldn’t help but think if I were trying to get people to back one of these… again, I would at least have the driving around part ready!

    As a child, I just knew that if I could last long enough to see the year 2000, then I too would have a flying car just like the Jetsons! But, I grew up, made it to the year 2000, and no flying car! After eaerning my ticket in Dallas, I’m kinda glad everyone doesn’t have one!

  9. Jim G Says:

    There remain problems for the LSA industry (as well as standard light GA aircraft manufacturers) to find places to cut weight in order to deliver adequate carrying capacity for two people plus reasonable baggage. Due to the dual mission (with at least two disparate physical and regulatory environments), it seems to me that Terrafugia has a nearly insurmountable hill to climb to do the same. Remember, they are doing this ostensibly within LSA rules. For them it should be a far worse problem, due to the purely add-on auto-unique requirements (tires, road brakes, reasonable undercarriage, shocks, even rudimentary chassis). This vehicle has to be SAFE on roads that have 18-wheelers, heavy traffic, non-aircraft type weather challenges, etc. I don’t question that it’s a good idea–it keeps coming back, so it is clearly a worthy challenge. But I question the practicality of the combination at a price that anyone can afford and at a weight that will really handle both missions appropriately (and fit under LSA criteria). Can it be done once as a test vehicle? Probably–they are a very talented and experienced team, as seen by their extensive briefings at Oshkosh. But reality may yet deal the team some hard blows. They deserve respect for trying, but there is good reason to be skeptical of its practicality.

  10. Don Travis Says:

    Tom,
    I would certainly look hard at it. I love the concept, the question is does the idea really work?

  11. Mark D Jones CFII Says:

    Alot of stupid regulations had to be changed when cars replaced horses too!

  12. Chris Pfaff -- CFI/MEI-IA Says:

    Four things:
    1. ONLY IF a flying car meets U.S. auto safety (& emissions) standards will it have a chance.
    2. $200K (after sales tax) is not reasonable for any new 4-seat airplane. Make it affordable, then maybe.
    3. Profit will only come if massive sales, with low profit margin of the WalMart variety.
    4. I do not like the LSA idea, not just for this car, but at all. The accident rate will inevitably go up, pushing “regular” insurance rates up, with a coinciding lowering in respect for General Aviation.

    While I like the idea of a flying car, this thing had better not be priced more than a Lexus, it had better pass any inspection of either the auto or air variety, it had better not be limited by the”Experimental” categorization, and the average Joe the plumber had better be able to get a (full Private) pilot license as part of the sale package.

    If any of this sounds negative, it is not intended to be that way, just an honest look at the past with the hope of not repeating it here as another quirk of some engineer. I see a big market for flying cars, but only under the sound circumstances I’ve outlined. Success to you.

  13. Ron Greeley Says:

    Where would this world be without the dreamers AND the doers? You will always have the naysayers. I say, “Onward, through the fog”. Now if they could just make it amphibious…….

  14. David Cook Says:

    Tom, As pilots, I believe most of us would fly anything that will get off the ground. That said, Heck yes! I would love to have one. If we look at the cost of a car, an airplane,cost trips to and from the airport, tiedown fees, hangar fees, and time spent going back and forth to the airport, $194K isn’t that bad. For the record, imagine how strong GA would be if these cars become a reality. See you guys in the air!

  15. Daniel Raynor Says:

    as a truck driver and a private pilot my concern is how is this thing going to hold up to road conditions. if a truck passes you is it just going blow this light car right off the road. can it keep up with high speeds of todays roads. a good gust of wind and now your flying not driving, it seems to light for a car. i drive a truck that is 80,000lbs and i almost get blow off the road by large trucks passing me.

  16. Seb Dewhurst Says:

    I more or less agree with Jim G’s points above.

    Now, I love to see something new in the aviation industry, but surely the problem of “the last few miles” (i.e. getting from the airport to your house) is better solved with a VTOL design.

    That way, at least you are designing just an aircraft, not an aircraft and a car. I know, I know, hybrid airplane/helicopters have some issues too (V-22 Osprey, Bell 609).

    Nonetheless, if I were to bet on what the “family aircraft” of 100 years from now might look like, I think my money would be on one of the several VTOL concepts out there.

    Having said that, in the late 1800s I would not have put my money on a couple of bicycle guys from Ohio. So, best of luck to the MIT guys.

  17. David Trexler Says:

    The specifications for this model leave the high plains high and dry. Many western airports’ summer density altitudes exceed the service ceiling of this craft (10,000 ft, according to the AOPA article). Takeoffs anywhere near a service ceiling would be much more “exciting”.

    I think the idea is wonderful. I just think the design is a bit underpowered to be practical.

  18. Kevin Roll Says:

    I think the Transition is a wonderful idea, and I’m closely watching the development. While I wish it had more power/speed (and I’m sure a more powerful model will be contemplated further down the road) the Transition will still get you there twice as fast as driving, and it can do something no other vehicle can do – drive off the airport. My dream aircraft is the Pilatus PC-12, but the Transition represents something practical, affordable, and reasonable.

  19. Cedric Says:

    To the naysayers: Relax – nobody’s on your lawn. These aren’t being marketed as a commuter car, but as a plane that can park itself at your house instead of at the airport.

    To the Terrafugia guys: Keep up the great work. Even if only you only sell a couple *dozen* of these, you will have created the true next generation of air travel. I personally expect that at least a couple hundred will sell, though it might take some time, given the current economic conditions.

    I’d certainly buy one of these before buying a Cessna 15x or 172. I’d probably still get one of these before getting a 182.

  20. Bill Walker Says:

    Sounds like fun, but don’t think for a minute that is will ever be practical or economical. Auto owners complain about a $25 oil change and tires after 50,000 miles; and they never need a spark plug anymore. Wait until they face Annual Inspections and FAA certified replacement parts, not to mention the initial cost. It’s fun to dream and even to experiment, but if you follow the money trail, this can only go the way of the old AutoCar. And, this comes from a guy who loves aviation and owns several aircraft and more old cars that I want to admit.

  21. Edward Chipps Says:

    Remember the old saying–”A Jack of all trades is a master of none”. I find it very unlikely that, do to the incredibly broad mission of a “flying Car”, they can come up with something truly excellent The engineering obstacles are enormous. While I never say impossible, any such marriage of aircraft and automobile is most likely a huge compromise as a plane and car. I wish them luck, but I think there are good reasons why all others have failed

  22. Aaron Stonerock Says:

    Who insures the vehicle it the air?
    Who insures the vehilce on the road? in the garage?

    Who covers collision of being rear ended by a minimally insured driver to this $200k airframe?

    A roadable car gets aviators in the mind set of “I’m just flying a car”. Is it reasonable to do a pre-flight inspection to insure road salt, road debris, etc didn’t get lodged into flight controls?

    Will an opperator want to have 100 hr inspections of their “car”?

    Costly and not worth the capital. We have more important transportation challenges to solve and we need our engineers devoted to those tasks.

  23. Bill Riggs Says:

    The thought of being in the air with a bunch of people that can’t drive a car safely, add a few drunks and a general assortment of people we see on the roads everyday,? its a dream that will not come true. If you add enough avionics to control rush hour traffic you would have a machine no one could afford. And In place of road rage , we would have air rage, To me that is not a pretty picture.

  24. Bob Fisher Says:

    There are two universes here:

    1. The Popular Mechanics world which has everyone with a driver’s license flying to work to avoid the rush-hour commute with planes that look like cars with fans on the sides.

    2. Reality.

    It might be pretty neat to have a plane you could drive down the road, but no, everyone won’t have one, and pilots will always need flight training.

    The Terrafugia looks pretty neat but the things that make a good car are not necessarily the things that made a good plane and vice versa. It will need to compete in a world of purpose built Pipers, Cessnas, Ferraris, etc.

    You still have things like stall speeds, traffic coordination and minimum safe altitudes, etc. There are no, and there should be no everyman’s planes/cars for safety reasons and because of the laws of physics.

    As long as can I fly my Warrior into the airport of my choice and borrow a 1980 Crown Vic with “Property of Okmulgee Airport Authority” in 12 inch letters on the side or the Plymouth with the electric window switch hanging from its wires, then I’m OK, very happy and appreciative. Life is good.

    Not everyone is like me though.

  25. Art Ahrens Says:

    I agree that most of us will be interested in flying anything with wings. However, as for buying a new one, I would likely invest in an electric vehicle to get to work or for daily trips for the store. If everyone realized that over 90% of the vehicles on the roads during rush hour were only traveling less than 20 miles per day, they could easily use an electric vehicle. Imagine the fuel savings!! Cheaper gas and diesel where it is REALLY needed. Long road trips, truckers, AND airplanes, and we would probably not need oil from countries who do not like us.

    To those of you who would say that the drain on the power plants that burn oil, natural gas, and coal would increase, it may, but it is a much more efficient use of that fuel. Also, if geothermal, wind, solar, and nuclear sources are used, it would reduce our carbon footprint. Furthermore, the majority of cars would be charging at night, which is not a heavy use period on the power plants.

    Electric club cars at the FBOs???

  26. Jerry Cochran Says:

    “Refundable deposit” ?? Where’s the refund going to come from if the company burns thru all the cash and then files bankruptcy?

    Pardon me for my skeptical nature, but in my opinion, the odds of getting any money or product back from this adventure are approx 1000/1 against. Or more.

    I’m sure the founders have the best of intentions, but let’s get real. For $200k I can buy a nice $100K aircraft and use the interest off the remaining $100k to rent from Enterprise.

    BTW, you sure aren’t going to drive this thing down the road with the prop, so just the nuts and bolts of getting the power down to at least 2 wheels will be beyond daunting, I promise you. That is, and have enough HP left to get above 30MPH…

    Just my opinion, of course.

    Jerry

  27. George M Powell Says:

    Well, its been done before, with scant success. I wish ‘em a lot of luck! In today’s economy, the market just isn’t there. Too pricey!!

  28. M. W. Collier Says:

    This has about as much chance of succeeding as does a snowball in hell.

  29. Alex Pitschmann Says:

    Might be doable, but will never be practical. I doubt it’s possible to protect it as a car well enough and still be light enough to fly.
    I could just see it getting bumped into on the ground with hidden damage to a control surface that wouldn’t be noticed until airborne.
    Airplanes are delicate.
    How do you adequately protect this thing on the ground while parked?
    Force field? If it’s ever produced it will be strictly a novelty.

  30. Commissioner Arthur G Allen Says:

    Dear AOPA- I am very dissapointed that your take on this is so negative. You may respond that you were just looking fom “input” but that is not reflected in your tone. We need to work togther to foster aviation. This is no way to do that. Terrafugia is a Massachusetts based company with a first rate team working hard to use their MIT training to change the world. I have watched the operation from the 1st day and I think they are real and the project is going to fly & drive. The Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission has evaluated the effort and we fully endorse it and we hope you will see it’s value and potential in time. AOPA needs to help the little guy in the garage as he builds his dream and the young dreamers like Carl Deitrich, his wife and team.

    Arthur G. Allen
    Commissioner
    Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission

  31. David Says:

    I have been looking forward, for years, to buying a car/airplane. I hope it happens some day.

  32. mitchell Says:

    In Los Angleles it wouldn’t be viable to use as a road vehicle. I just purchased a a new car and it only took 2 days for SWF to run into the back of the Beemer. I wonder how Damage History would play into the composite Car/Plane after three or four accidents.

  33. Wes Says:

    I love the concept, but what is needed is a 4 to 6 place that we can take the whole family on vacation with. While there might be a small market for farms and wilderness home owners that could use a vehicle that they can fly a 100 miles, get groceries and then fly home again… the biggest market is for those who use SUVs to load up the family and take annual vacations or weekend trips.

    A small LSV is not going to meet the needs of the vast majority of families. It’s a great start, but without a large enough market, it puts them in financial risk before they even complete the first flight.

  34. Ohio Dave Says:

    I have to go along with the people that say it wont work. To maintain a car to aircraft standards, road salt, insurance, maintenance and initial cash outlay will cause this project to fail.

    I can see a personin our state with state minimums on insurance or no insurance hitting you and you are stuck with the repair. The part of training the pilot is still going to be required as you are flying in the same airspace as all others.

    To build a vehicle as this is an accomplishment how ever it is not practical in todays society.

    Ohio Dave.

  35. Commissioner Arthur G Allen Says:

    Sorry – Carl ( it is Dietrich ) and I am not about to trade my Archer in for a 200k a/c car but that does not mean that they are not pushing the envelope in aviation and technology every day. Think half full guys. This thing is also not designed to go cross country on the road. But from BVY to my garage 9 miles away is fine. AGA

    Commissioner Arthur G Allen
    Mass Aeronautics Commission

  36. Chris Gilley Says:

    Notwithstanding serious safety and maintenance concerns, insurance rates would be through the roof, possibly uninsurable by most companies. All it takes is for one inattentive driver to bump you or run into you and you’re done (not air-worthy).

  37. Paul Warman Says:

    I am one of the first to put down a deposit on the Transition. I believe that it will do all that they have set out to do and I will have my roadable vehicle in the Fall of 2010.

    With all the new technologies available today that were not available to Molt Taylor, they have set up milestones and have hit each one on or ahead of schedule. They will do their own manufacturing and not be dependeant on Fix Or Repair Daily for their product.

    There is another vehicle, the FSC1 from Labiche Aerospace, which has not made any of the promises it made potential buyers or investors, but the MIT folks have.

  38. A_man Says:

    I’m probably one of the only people who have yet commented that COMMUTES with a plane. I travel all over northern CA for my job, which takes me literally everywhere in the region. A typical day involves flight to the bay area, unfolding and riding my Montague mountain bike to the caltrain, taking that to BART, taking that to a shuttle and taking that to the customer site. I’ve toyed with the idea of buying an “airport car” but I need to go different places on different days – so there’s no good place to leave the car. This type of plane would solve (almost) all of those problems.

    This could be a disruptive technology innovation – i.e. there isn’t a huge demand now but how many people would take a job farther away if they knew they could use this vehicle to get somewhere? Now being under LSA I’m not familiar enough to know if you can fly an LSA in IMC as an IFR pilot – for reliability this is a must. Then there’s the potential for such a large surface area getting iced up…anyway somehow motorcycles and super tiny cars survive on the highway – reason is fundamental physics. The kinetic energy of the object is what keeps it on course – and the speed makes up for the weight difference. So the people saying it would be too light should remember a 400lb motorcycle can drive down the highway. Also if you need to hit the “open road” for a long trip wouldn’t you simply fly there instead?? :-)

    Anyway assuming (and it’s a big IF) someone, someday can get a functional product to market I think we’ll see a whole new approach to what it means to be a pilot and a gainfully employed individual. It could mean the death of the long-distance driving commute.

    One more point – the market here cannot be the average driver. “normal” people don’t fly out of fear/lack of ability/unimaginative/cost etc. The potential market is pilots who could either take a job farther away but don’t due to the complexity of travel, or pilots who want access to travel destinations not easily accessible from a local airport. – Just keep in mind if it’s a 4 seater you only need 1 pilot out of 3 people – the other two can just be guys who got tired of watching the pilot beat them to work….

  39. Mark J. Berg Says:

    I would certainly seriously consider the Terraflugia at $194,000 instead of a non-roadable LSA aircraft with the average price of ~$100,000.

    I believe the technology and engineering abilities are sufficiently advanced to develop a very capable “aerocar.” By very capable, I do not mean that it must compete against the best aircraft and against the best automobiles, but that it provides a good balance of compromise. Use of any aircraft requires compromise, even within the specific class of SEL aircraft.

    Individuals should thoughtfully address any perceived negatives about a project such as this. In this country, we appear to be succumbing to the notion that the government has already figured everything out and has passed legislation which cannot be changed. Consequently, some naysayers believe that innovative products like Terraflugia cannot work simply because they do not easily meet “the regulations.”

    Perhaps old regulations need to be changed to accommodate new ideas. Perhaps it would be better to develop a new category of personal transportation–”aerocar”–with its own set of (appropriate) regulations. Perhaps, ….

    My point is, do not limit technology and innovation to fit existing regulations, but rather carefully plan regulations to make the best use of such innovation.

  40. Mark J. Berg Says:

    Apologies to Carl Dietrich for spelling Terraflugia instead of the correct Terrafugia.

  41. Bob Gunery Says:

    Tom,

    I rather speclate with you, on the price at 150K than to connect with Carl at 194K, but if it’s going to cost 194K it better do 194KTS. For 194K junk yard wars can build a VTOL better suited to a flying car concept.

    I want this aircraft availible to the masses, about as much as I want WMD in the hands of terrorist. Instead of air raid siren we will have to have AIR RAGE SIRENS. I fly now to get away from the crazies on the ground don’t stick them in the air with me. As far as the aircraft, I won’t knock til I try it, but it’s at best cute.

    Regards,
    Bob

  42. Alex Jonischkies Says:

    It seems that most of those sceptical of this idea are of the mistaken impression that this craft is designed to be an everyday use automobile as well as airplane. This, I will agree, is practically impossible with current technology due to the stringent requirements on both ends, both regulatory and physically. This design goal was certainly a large contributing factor to the failure of historical attempts – they really were trying the impossible. This project, however, has a very realistic and achievable goal – to make an airplane that is minimalistically legal and capable to simply drive off the airport to your garage and back again. That garage will certainly consist of the ordinary family vehicles alongside it – it is not a replacement for these whatsoever.

    Now, to those saying performance will be weaker on both sides, this is absolutely correct. The dual engineering goals and fundamental requirements of each role will detract from its performance in either one of the catagories. So why, aside from a lot of convenience and interest in novelty, would anyone pay $200k for performance worse than an average LSA, costing between $110k and $150k? Part of that answer can be quickly found.

    Look at hangar costs at your local airport. Certainly they vary somewhat widely, but I believe the average cost could be approximated by $500/mo (this could be well off, I have no experience with aircraft ownership having been a flying club member for the whole of my short time as a pilot). That would become $6000/year.

    Now assume you are willing to sacrifice some performance (and with sound design it would not be a huge amount), but you don’t want to pay more for seemingly less even with the added convenience. You were going to purchase a $140k LSA. A simple comparison would show that after 10 years of not paying hangar fees you just broke even, all the while being able to drive your airplane back and forth from the airport.

    Things start to look better now, don’t they? There is now the factor of insurance and possible damage from road accidents. These are answers that nobody has, and will certainly become important in the final determination of “is it worth it?” I, for one, would think many people would be glad to here how the designers believe these factors will work out as soon as they get these issues figured out themselves.

    As for whether or not I think it is a good idea, I have no doubts that it is a great idea. They have come a long way with this already (seemingly, at least) and are currently on a path to at least a marginal success. It is my hope that regulatory issues do not ground this great idea and effort, and if they do not I believe there will be a good enough market to keep them alive. In the end, however, only time will tell. Good luck!

  43. Ron Levy Says:

    I guess this prooves the paradigm that “A camel is a horse designed by committee”.
    But the real problem is that this in uninsurable. A fender (ruder?) bender is a $50,000 repair, three weeks of down time and log entry at the least… no chance getting that insured in most states (especially those with high traffic where you would want it most) by auto insurers. If the engine is hit from behind now we are talking overhaul too. As for theft insurance… what a prize and what a getaway it would make. It won’t even have to be towed across the border!!! I can also see the TSA raising an eye brow as to whether it can be operated and run from a highway that’s too close to a National Security “zone”. What I would really like to see is someone spend the money to develop an engine with a less costly fuel consumption as that cost is what’s driving everyone out of the industry and ultimately harming the industry by pushing buyers away.

    Nonetheless, I applaud the technology and concept development which are always pluses in this industry and wish them the best of luck. Our industry needs every bit of help it can get.

  44. Dr. Richard Polanski Says:

    Only in this great country can you imagine something and if you put enough talent and money into the concept, anything can be achieved. The Terrafugia project has some
    great people who are dedicated and visionary, and the effort of concept should be applauded and annotated in aviation history in and of itself.

    However, I’ve followed the Terrafuggia since its inception, as well as other similar endeavors. And most of the associated comments here hit some of the project’s coffin nails on the head.

    There are always illusionary perspectives being the byproduct of enthusiasm, especially in the area of subject marketing. As one of the above commentators astutely pointed out, the market is actually not ALL of general aviation as implied in the hype. Most people have no interest of using personal aircraft to travel for business, period. Even if it can also be driven to the store as well. And conversely, most pilots don’t care or want to drive their airplanes to the local Home Depot. Demographically this would have been proven over the generations of aviation development had this not been so.

    Most in private general aviation use personal aircraft for pleasure travel and only some limited business. Check the numbers and statistics. And this had even been declining lately due to the aging inventory, aging pilots, and increasing costs. This was the main reason for the initiation of the LSA movement; to reverse this trend. Otherwise commercial aviation takes the load of pure air travel for business, travel, or other reasons. There are no indications that this will radically change in our lifetimes.

    But even in the targeted market, which would be those people or pilots recipient to the appeal of the niche, at least, There are several problems with with actual mechanics and viability and logistics of one vehicle v. a separate aircraft and landcraft.

    And then, of course, the most important factor of cost (its the economy, stupid).
    Those pilots who do travel and require a car to get from the airstrip to wherever else regularly are usually aligned in their choice based on pragmatic affordability. Most are content and justifiably so, with a relatively reliable used vehicle (a real one) and a decent x-country light plane both attainable for less than 100k !

    How could you justify an over 200k ‘vehicle’, half of which for limited travel and usage from an airfield in any combination of worth compared to that? Especially when the dual functions cancel out the optimum performance of either. And did anyone realize the Wx factor? Which almost fifty percent of the time in most parts of the country will nullify the
    concept value in biz or visit trips. Thus diminishing the hyped value considerably, in reality?

    If you preferred a new aircraft and a new car, a better choice, still, would be something like the brand new Patriot II Super Cruiser LSA for only 59k and a nice little fuel efficient compact like the new VOLT or the New Honda, for around 16k, the total being
    over 120k less than the Terrafugia, or about the price of a nice little vacation cabin close to the lake thats close to the shortfield airstrip that only something like the STOL Patriot II can easily get in and out of while the Terrafugia, incidentally, cannot. It needs more distance up or down than a Cessna, Which is another limitation in available destinations. And the Terrafugia will not zip along at 120kts or better either, like one one of these new high performance LSA.

    This is not even considering some serious facts like the Rotax is not even a real aircraft engine let alone a CAR engine. From a practical street engineering perspective, I would wonder how long it would last in Real traffic. And that unlike your big truck, if it gets lot damage you can still drive away. If a wing gets dinged on your flying car, You may not be able to utilize its ‘better half’ until after its costly repairs. I can extend my range on this subject for several pages but the biggest obstacle these courageous young geniuses face is insurance and unseen regulations. (Like side /rear view mirrors, etc.)

    Add in the fact that buyers these days don’t want to ‘fuel’ around with too much maintenance or problematics. They want to get in and go. Otherwise they’d get a helicopter, which, by the way, can be met in initial cost, at least, and provide true VTOL
    for about the same price or maybe less for a decent used machine.

    Something new is always ‘stimulating’ due to the forces of nature integrating with human nature. The confusuion exists when the subjectivity of reality collides with diffusion of
    marketing mysticism.

    Unfortunately, one of the main detriments will be the sticker shock. This is what is hurting some otherwise very nice new LSA at 100k plus a crowhop. But 200 thousand plus for something that is still more of a novelty niche item, instead of a needed practical solution, will always have a difficult time getting off the ground, technical difficulties aside.

    So I’m also in awe as to how they get their investors. I gues not many investors are engineers and most of them are victims of stimulus dream marketing.

    However, to indulge in the magic of the moment, as well, I’m hoping they at least have some good flight test numbers. That way they’ll initially get enough of the novelty buyers’
    money to keep them in the black for a while. No matter what the bottom line reality is,
    in the real world, we all eventually want to travel in the Starship Enterprise.
    And we should never discourage those who want to get us there. Go for it, guys!

  45. Joe Says:

    I have spent my entire life dreaming of the day that i could fly to any destination, land, and just keep on going. Technology is not the issue, in my mind. its design. How to make a vehicle that not only performs well as a ground based form of transportation (notice i didn’t say car) and as an airplane, but looks normal, and better yet, cool doing it. this would be my #1 beef with the Terrafuega. it may be an engineering success, but only the purists will look past the goofy folded wings and general appearance of being some form of laboratory mutation. The real winner of this race, and there will be one, is the team that figure out how to make the vehicle look acceptably “natural” and fluid in either configuration. Squirrels pull it off, but their flight performance is pretty week. Penquins do some interesting things, but they only fly in pretty dense fluids and still look pretty funny walking, although they seem to have great endurance. If Biomimicry gives any real hope for the concept, it might have to be the roadrunner. Not a great flyer, but a heck of a ground bird. I don’t think the answer will ever look like a car……i think it will look more like something that doesn’t really exist yet – unless you think the Aptera is going to make it. And maybe its not a configuration that stays together? the original air car left the bird-feathers at the airport. or trailer them seperately. I tend to like this the best as the ultimate solution, but then maybe it is no longer considered a roadable. Bottom line – i’ll be surprised the day i ever see a Terrafuega driving down the road or flying, for that matter. i hope they prove me wrong – its a fun concept to noodle on and will be great to see one really make it.

  46. Barry Gloger Says:

    Using a flying car as your basic car makes no economic sense as insurance, operating and maintenance will be far higher than the cost of owning and using a second car. One has to get to the departure airport and driving your flying car will cost more in time and gas, than your regular car. Thus the only reason to keep the flying car offsite is if storage at the departure airport is unavailable or prohibitively expensive. There will also be the time penalty converting it from car to plane. A trailerable plane would serve as well.

    The only purpose a flying car can serve is to drive out of the destination airport. We fly for two reasons; the shear joy and to get to a destination conveniently. You have to question that if your arrival airport does not have the local transportation (rental car, taxi, bus, bicycle or pickup by whomever you’re visiting) to get you to your final destination, that maybe you’ve flown into the wrong airport. Do you really want to be driving your $200,000 plane long distances over hill and dale? Do you want to park it on a public street or mall lot? Perhaps it would be better to fly into a full service airport a little further away and rent a car. The extra travel time can be offset by the time saved not having to convert the plane to a car.

    The only flying car that makes sense is the Jetson’s; a car that takes off from your garage and lands directly in front of your destination. Not some hybrid that is neither a car nor a plane; too many compromises have to made that detract from its performance as either.

  47. Jim Olsen Says:

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the wave of negativity here: it was my first thought when I noticed the Terrafugia booth at Oshkosh. But while the technical challenges are indeed formidable, it’s premature to conclude that they are insoluble in the current state of technology. This is, in fact, the type of innovation that the LSA rule was designed to foster.

    Armchair critics are welcome to snipe and pooh-pooh this idea, but as long as the Terrafugia people want to sink their time into it, and investors their money, I’m looking for success. [By the way, Carl Dietrich is a little behind the times: you can't reserve airframe #0057 any more. I reserved it this week.]

  48. Jeff Says:

    A ‘fender-bender’ in this thing would cost a fortune to fix, but at least you could rive it there.

  49. Russell Ziprik Says:

    I think dreaming is great, but truth is this will never be more than a novelty and will look good on a resume to say look what I did. Weight restrictions with LSA’s will means that the highway configuration will have serious challanges providing adequate safety for the occupants. Folded wings will also cause tremendous blind spots for the driver, which will be another hazard. What about the errant rock of other road debris that will get thrown up and damage control surfaces or the propeller? The small wheels, tires and brakes which would be used on an aircraft won’t hold up to the demands of driving down the road, pot holes, metal plates, gravel, etc….. To be truely useful you would want to carry two people, a small amount of luggage and sufficent fuel to go more than 100 miles. I am sure the team building the Terrafuga will get a unit to do what they say, which in itself will be something to be very proud of. What I think they won’t be able to do, is make all the perfect compromises required to make an affordable and truly useful vehicle.

  50. Dave Says:

    The safety issues for cars and airplanes are currently mutually exclusive: A car needs to be solid and substantial to survive a very likely accident, while an airplane needs to be lithe and light in order to fly.

    Then there’s the regulatory aspect: If you combine the conflicting regulatory demands of a road vehicle (crashworthiness, emissions, noise), and the regulatory demands of an airplane (flamability, redundency reliability) you will have a vehicle that is so incredibly expensive, and such a compromise in both environs, that it will still make much more economical sense to fly a plane and rent a car.

    I like the idea because it’s straight out of a comic book! No matter how impractical it is at the start, the technology has to start somewhere and if the idea is viable, it will eventually mature into something useful. But, as of today, there would be such a hair-ball of compromises that the vehicle would perfom poorly in the air and on the ground. So I’ll wait and see if it all pans out.

  51. Ron Dixon Says:

    They still have a very long way to go.

    1. They have not begin to solve the problems they WILL HAVE with the propeller drive. Their proposed solution for torsional resonanse will fail, as it has before. There are solutions, but they weight more.

    2. They will require a $300,000,000 investment before the first production aircraft rolls off the assembly line and they get paid.

    I am sure that everything works nicely in the computer simulation, but the engineering problems they have to solve are in the real world.

    I do wish them well, but am not holding my breath. I have seen too many fail at this over the last 35 years.

  52. Fred Says:

    The problem I see with this vehicle is not the design, but the practicality. Would you really spend $200,000 on a vehicle and then take it out onto the highway? The first stone that a passing vehicle throws up, could in all likelyhood make the vehicle un-airworthy. Then do you go to a body man or an airframe mechanic? costly repairs.

  53. Steven Says:

    I think many of the posters are under the impression that this vehicle is intended to replace the family car. Clearly, it is not. No one is going to sell their Toyota Camry and buy one of these to drive the kids to school, or to drive to the mall. The Transistion is an airplane that you can drive home. I live in the Northeast, where hangar fees are $500 per month. I would love an airplane that could land, fold the wings, and be driven 10 miles to my garage. On the other end, even the $200 hamburger is often a pain in the butt, because you are pretty much limited to on-airport restaurants, or you are subject to the whim of the FBO guy as to whether he’ll loan you the keys to the “courtesy car”, which is probably less road worthy than the Transistion. It would be very liberating to be able to drive your aircraft the last couple miles or so to your destination.

    Kudos to the Terrafugia team. I don’t know if it will be commercially successful or not, but I applaud them for having the guts to try. We need more innovators, not more nay-saying pundits.

  54. Rob D Says:

    Were all the previous dreamers and engineers of the roadable aircraft morons? I think not. It matters not how smart or idealistic these guys are. The technology is not the limiting factor. The market is the limiting factor. Some present company excluded, most people don’t want a flying toaster… uh, I mean a road-able aircraft. I’ll stick to my flyable aircraft and my folding bicycle and my road-able car.

    The ICON A-5 LSA, on the other hand, appears very marketable and desirable by both pilots and sportsmen. I suspect it will do well.

    BTW, can I drive the Terrafugia into the D.C. ADIZ without a squawk code? Do I need double locks when I park it in my driveway in Massachusetts? Will Geico give me a 15% discount on my road-able aircraft insurance?

  55. Gilles R. Says:

    Driving is for people who can’t fly. Cut the “blogging” for such an impossible task. We have enough issues to deal with “congestion” in the air that I wonder how you would get back where you are from should you have a fender-bender while “driving you plane-car” on the road. Leave this to EAaCA (experimental aircraft and car association). Fly and drive is asking for troubles, not impossible but not practical.

  56. Ed Higginbotham Says:

    An inefficient airplane.
    A very inefficient car.
    Who would buy it? Not me.

  57. Eric Says:

    Forget the nay-sayers just do it, Ive already considered buying a farm for my own airstrip to save the hassles of an airport.It’s been done. Now refine it. The -that will never work mentality is killing this country. Can there be a vehicle dot approved that would be restricted friom the interstate? Why not? The sky is the limit. Man sets the limitations

  58. Matt Hammer Says:

    I wont knock the idea completely, but it’ll definitely never be a reasonable option for the “average” person. Not without lengthy and costly training, at least. I can picture it now… “Look at that cloud! It’s huge!” “Yeah, and it flares at the top – almost like an anvil!” “Cool! Lets fly under it, daddy!”

    Congestion issues would also be an insurmountable problem — if the average driver starts flying instead, I stop flying. Plain and simple. Even if some sort of navigation system were made to “sort” the traffic, there would still be no way to prepare all the new “fliers” for the numerous contingencies that would (not “could,” but “would”) occur (icing, engine or electrical failure, improper fuel management, bird-strikes, wind-shear, list goes on and on).

    As for the concept itself… if it can be made airworthy, and roadworthy, then I’m all for it. As long as it’s treated like a regular aircraft insofar as pilot certification requirements are concerned, then I have no issues with the idea whatsoever.

  59. Richard Hogan Says:

    I have followed Carl & Company’s progress over the last couple of years and consider his accomplishments to date substantial. Since there are many notes about the challenges facing Terrafugia, I am offering a few other thoughts for consideration.

    If you look at their product and vision of what features best meet the needs for an entry level Roadable Aircraft, they are well developed considering that in the early stages of innovation the true market niche doesn’t exist. Their approach is technically conservative compared to most other drive/fly ideas under development. They identified automotive standards and insurance as primary challenges early on and made credible progress on both issues. The business plan is built around low volume initially until the market demand can be better quantified and current backlog appears consistent with projections to date.

    On the issue of practicality I expect that most of us fund our flying with disposable income and almost any private owned aircraft would be hard to justify based on true return on investment. Flying is not unique in this though. Boat, Motorcycles, Racecars, Timeshares… Who thought anyone would buy a jetski when they came out? It is very difficult to fish from a jetski and try a sunset diner cruise on one sometime.

    Dual purpose anything is not great at either? Yeap, especially if you try to make it equally good at both. Getting the mix right is the key. For most planes the first and last mile or so of every flight is generally on the ground though. In fact every airplane I have flown had either wheels or floats so maybe if you don’t try to make it too good of a car, it just might still be a pretty good airplane.

    On the issue of cost, Marketing 101 tells us the cost declines as the volume increases. If we built as many aircraft as we do cars the price would be drastically lower. I agree with the readers that point out that we don’t want to fly with all the nuts we meet driving every day but if we are serious about preserving our right to fly, a few hundred thousand extra pilots might give us a stronger voice. In the interest of growth we could use some excitement in the world of aviation. The dream of “Roadable Flight” is extremely elusive and challenging but at least equally inspiring.

    One final comment for Carl and his innovative team. Your vision is beyond the headlights of imagination for most people. All of our opinions will mean a lot more when we see your prototype in action because we will know what we feel. All real decisions are emotional not logical. Good luck.

  60. Bruce Says:

    The negativity expressed here is almost as depressing as the fact that Kip Hawley and the Transportation Insecurity Administration will surely begin routine search and destroy missions to shoot down and kill any such flying contraption, even if it does weigh less than 12,500.

    Terrafugia is doing something constructive, when almost everyone else is just pissing and moaning. Can they do it? I don’t know. It seems implausible, since any LSA is so weight-restricted that very few can carry two typical fat Americans aloft, even at minimum fuel. Add airbags front and side, alcohol ignition interlock, daytime running lights, bumpers, DOT laminate glass, and third brake light, etc. and that LSA would just about have to be over 500Kg before you add fuel, let alone people.

    But, who are we to judge? Who among us was forced to invest involuntarily? Who among us really suffers if they fail?

    I admire their courage, and I wish them well, whatever the final outcome.

  61. Robert Says:

    A 3 wheeled motorcycle may have a better chance of success. Check out Samson Motorworks SkyBike at http://www.samsonmotorworks.com .

  62. Allen Kukucka Says:

    Right Idea, Wrong Technology

    Yes, it is inevitable that we (maybe not you and I) will eventually see flying automobiles. However, I don’t believe this will be achieved through technology that exists today. Anti-gravity is the real solution. When that happens and can be combined with a super computing navigation infrastructure, we will finally see practical flying autos.

    Until then, enjoy your relatively unique privilege of flying and be thankful we don’t have fly-by shootings or “Going Dumb” in the skies.

  63. Gary Lopes Says:

    Flying cars cannot and will not be for everyone because not everyone can be a safe competent pilot (or driver). The only way to get around this fact of life is to completely automate the vehicle and replace the pilot/driver with technology. Then I suppose we have to trust the engineers to get it all right?

    Sadly and truly, very few of us are capable of safely and consistently controlling a machine through the air. Otherwise there would be an order of magnitude more pilots with increased demand driving down the cost of flying.

    We as pilots are generally speaking, a very special and highly capable bunch. To pass the requirements of an IFR ticket is roughly the equivalent of any serious University level Engineering course. As I watch people drive on the roadways I am constantly horrified by their reckless incompetence and think to myself that they would live for only a few short minutes behind the controls of an aircraft. If this view is perhaps too elitist for you, then you should know that political correctness carries zero currency with me.

    These constant dreams and promises of flying cars for everyone willfuly denies the inherent and very observable limitiations of mankind. We need a better man before we need a flying car.

  64. Parth S Says:

    Viable or not, but remember product itself is just one factor. I can think of some circumstances this new idea could fly…

    1. NEED BUZZ. Get it into the next Bond movie.
    2. FIND NICHE. Traveling salesmen, claims adjustors, whatever. Take a wholesale industry approach.
    3. MAKE IT AFFORDABLE. Make it lease-only payments with maintenance/insurance etc included.

    I can’t though imagine this being for the average “Joe the pilot” (rhymes nicely with “Joe the plumber”, doesn’t it) folks like us. Take advantage of converging trends. Learn from other industries not just aviation and you just might find a way to success.

    Good luck guys.

  65. Parth S Says:

    Correction I meant to say “this old idea could fly”…

  66. Phil Says:

    If it can fly as well as a comparable airplane.
    If it can drive as well as a comparable automobile.
    If it does not cost more than the cost of owning both.
    Then it will be a winner instead of something that hangs in museums!

  67. Bob Bennett Says:

    Sounds like a fun idea, being able to drive and fly the same vehicle to and from work or on vacation but I seriously doubt the concept will, literally, ever get off the ground.

    It seems unlikely that a single insuror would be willing to provide the various coverages needed against hazards on highways, on the airport and in flight.

    And, if it were possible to obtain a separate automobile and aircraft insuror for the needed coverages, which one would pay when a Terrafugia loses power in the air, the pilot attempts an emergency landing on a highway, crashes into a motor vehicle and seriously injures a passenger and the occupants in the automobile.

    Was the Terrafugia an airplane or an automobile at the time of the accident? The litigation involved would be mind-boggling.

  68. Tom Conte Says:

    I would love to see how airport security will handle a pilot who wants to drive up to an airport and take-off. When someone lands after hours at an airport, who will be there to open the gate to let the pilot drive home? Airport access issues are just one thing MassDOT would have to figure out. Insurance cost alone will be any roadable aircraft biggest challenge.

  69. Chris Says:

    The best flying car is a limousine tied down inside a C-130.

    (Or another ground vehicle specific to the “mission”.)

    Of course, unless you’re the President of the United States or a “mega”-millionarie, the cost is prohibitive.

    There are probably other smaller cargo-capable planes just large enough to haul a compact car, I’m not a cargo-plane expert. This might be affordable by just a “lots of millions”-aire.

    Of course for the rest of us “just fairly well off” there are folding motor-scooters. The problem is most of these don’t have enough horsepower to travel at highway speeds. Here is a surmountable challeange – A foldable, light, small motorcycle with enough horsepower, and still large enough when unfolded, to travel the freeways.

  70. LSA and proud... Says:

    I was mostly commenting on the CFII’s contention that flying under LSA rules increases accident rates and, as a result, pushes up insurance costs. That’s a strawman argument to be sure. Show me the numbers that support that thesis. I had a PPL and had to go to LSA due to some absolutely archaic rules that govern medical approvals from the FAA. The aircraft under the LSA rules, as he or anyone in his position should know, are lighter, slower, can only be flown VFR in daylight, and only able to carry two people instead of three or more. There are far fewer LSA accidents per miles flown than is the case for GA as a whole. It stands to reason. Now, as for the flying car bit, I don’t know how one could mass produce such a vehicle that would make it affordable enough for MOST of the flying public in GA today. I remember seeing ads either in Flying Magazine or AOPA’s own publication about a conversion that was going to be built as a automobile/jet hybrid. I don’t know whatever happened to the whole enterprise but I remember reading that some pilot somewhere had posted the $25,000 deposit on one (or maybe it was $10K, I don’t really remember), but then never saw another word about it. There were no more ads and I don’t remember reading in any of the trades about the company’s demise. Keep ‘em flying!

  71. Gary Smith Says:

    Give me a break! Who are these people who say that $194,000 for something like this is “affordable?’ I make a reasonable income, but as it is I cannot afford most new GA aircraft. Is General Aviation being relegated to only those with a six+ figure income? What about those of us who drive an older car so we can afford to buy a small used GA aircraft, pay the insurance, hangar fees, avgas, and annuals? Since childhood I’ve dreamed of the concept of a flyable car (or a roadable airplane). But with current highway safety standards and the FAA & EPA breathing down our necks, can a car/airplane really be feasable? It would have to sacrifice either the car element, airplane performance, or both. As for me, I’ll take a car with good performance and a used aircraft with good performance, and end up with the best of both worlds for less money. The flying car is only a dream of the past.

  72. Carl Dietrich Says:

    Normally I don’t participate in these blog discussions, but since people on this board understand something about aviation, I’ll make an exception.

    1) The Transition is not a “Flying Car.” It is a “Roadable Aircraft.” You may think I’m being contentious in making that distinction, but it is critically important to set expectations properly — this is not anyone’s vision of a ‘flying car’ as perpetuated by the media (including the title of this post); a “flying car” is a “pipe dream” — almost by definition at this point. Terrafugia’s Transition is an AIRPLANE with a unique and potentially very useful additional feature — the ability to drive on the road. The Transition will not replace anyone’s car, but if you are in the market for a new aircraft, there are some very appealing features to our product that we think you may want to consider before making your purchase.

    2) There are some conflicts between the FAR Part 23 standards and the FMVSSs (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) which would have made it much more difficult (i.e. required more special exemptions, more time, and more investment up front) to bring a roadable aircraft product to market prior to the SP/LSA rule in 2004. The ASTM standards that dictate the design and construction of Special Light Sport Aircraft do not have these same conflicts with the FMVSSs — this created an opportunity that Terrafugia is capitalizing on to bring a roadable LSA to market for very little up front capital (making our venture more attractive to investment than prior attempts).

    3) For the past two years we have been allowing potential customers to reserve airframes with refundable deposits. We do not use their money to fund development — we use investor money as development funds. Customer deposits are fully refundable.

    4) We make no claims about “affordability” of our product compared to cars — that is entirely subjective and irrelevant. Our vehicle is an aircraft. Our anticipated price of $194K is just that — the price at which we believe we can sell our aircraft for enough of a profit that will allow our business to have an attractive and sustainable growth rate.

    5) Regarding the market for our product, we have been receiving deposits at a rate of approximately 20/year. These customers are people who would traditionally be classified as “visionary adopters” by Everett Rogers, author of “Diffusion of Innovation”. We expect that deposit rate will remain about the same through first flight (though first flight will get a lot of attention), but once we start delivering a product, we expect an increase in demand from genuine “early adopters”. We will then leverage that increased deposit rate to expand our manufacturing capability to where-ever the market (order backlog) takes us.

    6) We believe that the Transition has the potential to be a disruptive technology in the general aviation market, but our business plan does not bet on that — that is why we will succeed in the end, and why it really does have the potential to be disruptive in the long term.

    7) If this industry wants to create new pilots, I would postulate that no single product has as much potential to create new pilots as the Terrafugia Transition.

    8) For those of you who doubt that from a technical perspective the vehicle can be designed to meet ASTM standards, FMVSS’s, and EPA requirements, I would be happy to talk with you in person about your concerns at any of the following events:

    - AOPA Expo
    - Sebring Sport Aviation Expo
    - Sun n Fun
    - Oshkosh

    Or better yet, just wait a bit longer and let us show you how we will make it work — you’ll probably see it on the news at some point over the next year. The press loves to do stories of it — calling it a “flying car” and hyping it up — it is more controversial that way — just look at the number of responses to this blog… But the reality is that what we really have is an exciting aircraft development and manufacturing business with significant growth potential because of the niche we have carved.

    Thanks for your interest.

    -Carl

  73. Tom Haines Says:

    Thanks, Carl, for the thoughtful perspective–and to everyone else who has commented. I look forward to catching up with Carl next week at Expo in San Jose and will report back.

    –Tom

  74. Steven Root Says:

    I think this is a wonderful idea, whose time is coming. How many of us have not flown to an airport simply because of the hassle of making arrangements for a car or some other form of public transportation. I for one would embrace this technology, albeit it would need to be affordable, and would definitely fly more. A flying car would not, at least in the early years, be a replacement for the family sedan as I see it, it may not even be a replacement for the current aircraft you own or rent. What it would be is a significant step into the future that we all read about or dream about. It would be a vehicle that could further create dreams as yet not had, and possibilities as yet not known.

  75. Ken Says:

    With any breakthrough technology, there is a ‘bleeding edge’. Previous attempts to create a vehicle that could fly and drive (or even drive and ‘motorboat’) appealed to early adopters but few others. Sometimes the true benefit to the masses comes from advances in technology that are a just small part of the original (NASA and Velcro, for instance). Perhaps there is a nugget of technological value that will stem from this invention that will appeal to all.

    A visionary often creates a solution to which there is no problem. In time, though, others may see uses that weren’t originally anticipated. This is where mass appeal seems to come from. It was awfully expensive to set up the infrastructure for the telegraph, just to be able to send a message that could easily have been send by mail. Eventually, speed was recognized as valuable and both telegraph and telephone were perceived to be needed. But this took time. When it finally was recognized that there was a need, there was competition – seemingly everybody got into the business. Many failed. Businesses merged, until few remained. The same is true with automobiles, railroads, airlines, etc. The trick is to understand this and think HARD about how it could be used and by whom.

    With luck, this will be more than just a proof of concept. Perhaps, with good press and some out-of-the-box thinking by potential users (and the owners), it will be well adopted and they will become rich. However, this is an incredible long shot. Perhaps they will be the next Microsoft, and not the next Radio Shack, Atari, Commodore, Packarf Bell, Zenith, etc.

  76. Chopper Says:

    Here’s an alternative idea – make a roadable HELICOPTER. During your normal 45 minute commute home each night, imagine getting coming to a complete halt in the evening rush hour. Just check for powerlines, unfold the rotors, do a vertical take-off and fly home instead!

    Would anyone be interested in doing that…?

  77. David Says:

    After exploring roadable aircraft, MotoPOD LLC designed a belly pod to carry a 250cc motorcycle. After landing, the pilot can remove the motorcycle, unfold the handlebars and ride away in just a few minutes. The prototype is already flying on a Vans RV-10 with STC’d installations planned for the Cirrus SR-20, 22 Cessna 350, 400, 182 and others.

    This simple approach combines a perfectly good motorcycle with a very nice aircraft… and without much trade-off. It’s not a solution for everyone, but it works well for the folks that enjoy motorcycles.

  78. Rich Strong Says:

    You are cordially invited to see my flying car project at my website, http://www.strongware.com/dragon.

  79. Rich Strong Says:

    The problem is that there are hundreds of cities that are hundreds of miles apart, as crows fly,
    and even further by fuel-wasting stop-and-go zig-zaggy road routes.
    Many travellers and cargo movers need to go between and within them on a daily basis,
    BUT the highway system is forecast to be even more congested and speed-limitted in the future.
    There are thousands of nearly-empty small airports that can be used by fast airplanes in nearly-empty skies;
    however, most airports are located out of towns, so travellers require some form of
    ground transportation, such as rental cars, to get to and from their desired destinations in towns and suburbs.
    Private and business airplane owners and renters still waste precious time changing from car to plane and back again,
    such as parking, transferring baggage, renting cars, and readying and securing their airplanes.
    Airline travellers must deal with even more problems of scheduling, ticketing,
    reservations, routing, seatmates, lost baggage, and security queues.
    An optimum solution may be the use of flyable automobiles that combine the speed of airplanes
    with the convenience of automobiles, in automatically transformable vehicles – aircars.
    Over the years of discussing the project with others, general fallacies have been voiced often:
    1) cars are too heavy to fly; 2) “average” drivers are too dangerous to fly; and
    3) the sky is too small for millions of aircars.
    The truths are: 1) the Strongmobile designs are technically sound for adequate performance;
    2) licensed pilot-aviators are much better trained and qualified than poor drivers; and
    3) the skies are big enough and control is adequate for hundreds of thousands of aircars.
    Business travellers who make a dozen or so trips per month may find that avoiding their payroll
    and support costs on a time basis offsets the costs of their aircars, as compared to other ways of travel.
    You may see here a study, like “diamonds in the rough”, by retired Air Force Command Pilot-Aero Engineer Rich Strong,
    developed over a 50-year period, that combines an advanced design, a sustainable business plan, and convenient operation.
    Thousands of StrongMobile fans have viewed this study, so look for somebody to cut and polish the rough diamonds and
    make shining gems!

  80. Julia Says:

    I wanted to comment and thank the author, good stuff

  81. John Says:

    So far it would seem to me that the Terrafugia transition has been remarkably successful in doing what it set out to do. It flies, it drives and has proven the concept. As a maintenance engineer, pilot and cessna owner here in Australia, I think the team that have taken this project through to its current stage of development deserve recognition for their achievements so far. Well done and I look forward to seeing the aircraft close up in time to come.

  82. Daniel Says:

    I own a 172. (I’m a surgeon.) I fly it to a branch practice 150km by road away every fortnight. I spend 20 minutes driving to the airport, and an hour unloading and loading my bags, preflighting the plane, checking the weather, getting clearances, taxi-ing and getting into the air. (The flight is beautiful although sometimes a little bumpy.) At the other end I have an old car worth about $2,000 that lives at the airport. I tie down my plane, unload my bags, load my bags, and drive to the practice. This all takes about half an hour. (It’s quick because my car lives right next to where I park my plane.) I’m living the dream, but the whole exercise takes about three hours. To drive (which I do if the weather’s bad) takes one and a half. If I have to drive it means the old car at the airport doesn’t get driven for four weeks, which is not good. If the weather turns bad while I’m at the branch practice it means that I have to drive the old car home and then my good car sits at the home airport for two weeks, which is not good. Also I don’t get to fly my plane for two weeks.

    All and all the bottom line is I do it for the fun, not the practicality, but I’m the only one I know who does anything like what I do. The niche is a small one.

    Now a “roadable plane”! That would be great for eliminating all the loading and unloading and leaving cars at places. I could keep it in the garage at home instead of having a corroding metal plane left outside. I am the target audience. Thanks!

    But I have problems with the concept:

    1) Is LHS drive going to be legal on Australian roads? (We drive on the LHS.)
    2) Those wings sure look flimsy when they are being folded. Can you do that on a windy day?
    3) Do the wheels have mud flaps? What about stone chips on the wheel spats and airframe, and road grime in the wing joins? And debris jammed in and around the control cables and control surfaces?
    4) It has a lot of windage. Would a sideways gust blow it over (when driving?) or stress the folded wings? What about the airframe, and especially the folded wings, being jolted all the time driving on country roads near regional airstrips?
    5) Is my LAME going to be able to maintain this thing, or do I have to trust that it won’t be damaged in an automotive service centre. I can just imagine the young motor mechanics playing with it….
    6) It’s got a lot of moving parts….
    7) No-one know what the weaknesses are yet…
    8) I’ve got a wife and young kids. I trust the Lycoming. I’m not sure about the Rotax. I trust the 172. There’s not much that people don’t know about it.
    9) I’m going to park my plane in the hospital car park. And then in the motel car park. And maybe outside the movie theatre, parallel parked. People are going to look at it, talk about it, touch it, bump it, open their doors against it, bitch about it. Sit on it. Pull on it. Jump on it. Kick the tyres, Key it. Generally vandalise it. Then I’m supposed to drive it and fly it without worrying about it….(The Cessna’s in a secure environment.)
    10) Inevitably, on the road, I’m going to have an accident. What’s that going ot cost? (I don’t insure the Cessna.)
    11) I have a steep driveway at my place and a sharp turn into the garage. What’s the approach and departure angle, and what’s the turning circle?
    12) Often on weekends I go for trips with my wife and kids. A two seater wouldn’t allow that obviously.
    13) The 172 is easy to fly and land on rough strips. It’s industry standard. If I die in it nobody is going to say “he was an irresponsible show-off idiot flying an experimental plane” to my wife of kids.
    14) I can always sell the 172 if I want to. I doubt I could ever sell the “roadable plane”.
    15) I could always put the 172 online at the flying school if I wanted to.
    16) How easy is it to load baggage in and out of the roadable plane?
    17) What would insurance cost (if even possible)?

    Overall, I’ve always dreamed of owning something like a “roadable plane”, I could afford it, I would use it for business, and I could stand the controversy. But I still can’t really see myself getting one. I hope you can prove me wrong.

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