Thursday, March 19, 2009
Driving an airplane
On March 5 the Terrafugia Transition (can you say that fast ten times?) flew for the first time. It's the latest in a long line of dreams about a practical flying automobile. Whether it will bear fruit is another matter. Here, from the aviation website Avweb.com, is a video of its first flight:
The Transition is actually a "roadable airplane," not a true flying car. The idea is to keep it in your garage and then drive it out to the airport (the designer says it's street legal) for takeoff and landing. Just try that on I-94 during rush hour, however.
What makes it different from past flying-car concepts is the wings. They fold onto the car like a bird's. Earlier designs had detachable wings, such as that of the 1949 Aerocar, of which only six examples ever were built:
The dream of a flying car was born long, long ago. Sometime in the early 1920s a retired doctor named George Spratt, who had worked with the Wright brothers, designed and flew such a machine, and a film of it flying is here.
Frankly, car-airplane hybrids have traditionally made lousy airplanes and lousy cars, and I doubt the Terrafugia Transition is going to be any different. Full marks, however, to its designer for the audacity of his state-of-the-art dreams.