Finally, a flying car!
April 3, 2012 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Video: the Terrafugia Transition flying car goes for a drive and a flight. Press release. Previously. This is the first demonstrated flight of the vehicle at significant altitude (above ground effect).
posted by exogenous (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
How many miles to the gallon does it get?
posted by crunchland at 7:15 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


As it flies, it looks like the nose is constantly swinging a little from side to side. Is that because it's fishtailing like a rear-wheel drive car?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:17 AM on April 3, 2012


Man that thing is ungainly on the street, and those wings just bug the hell out of me from a failure mode perspective. I have to wonder if an autogyro derivative with a furling rotor wouldn't be not only a lot safer but much more car-like, and because of the reduced weight and mechanical complexity, be more affordable.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:18 AM on April 3, 2012


This is pretty cool, but it's not really a flying car, is it? It looks more like a driving plane.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:19 AM on April 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


How many miles to the gallon does it get?

For the environmentally conscious flying car owner the question will be "how long do the batteries take to recharge?"
posted by three blind mice at 7:22 AM on April 3, 2012


Seanmpuckett: A driving autogryo like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgHSaNtAMjs
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 7:22 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah. A flying car is kind of pointless if it's really just a small airplane that can fold up, and still has all of the normal pitfalls of conventional small aircraft.
posted by schmod at 7:25 AM on April 3, 2012


Flying cars are indeed pointless, unless you're the military. You and I will never be allowed to own one of these.
posted by monospace at 7:27 AM on April 3, 2012


Come on. The ideal flying car has to take off from a standstill, straight up, so that when I'm stuck in a traffic jam, I can just pop straight up and leave the rest of you suckers behind.
posted by crunchland at 7:29 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


all of the normal pitfalls of conventional small aircraft

What pitfalls are those? I admit they're expensive, but no more expensive than, for example, child care. If you can keep a day or so of flex in your schedule they are fine for traveling - I've taken mine all over the country and beyond.
posted by exogenous at 7:30 AM on April 3, 2012


On preview, exactly what crunchland says.

Also, if somebody bumps one of those wings while you're in the Walmart and you're screwed.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:31 AM on April 3, 2012


I am filled with desire. And the realization that I need a pilot's license.
posted by dejah420 at 7:31 AM on April 3, 2012


парень, где моя экраноплан?
posted by zamboni at 7:31 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many miles to the gallon does it get?

According to the specs, it gets 35 mpg on the ground and 21 mpg (105 mph / 5 gph = 21 mpg) in the air.
posted by RichardP at 7:34 AM on April 3, 2012


I suspect that thing's road-crash-worthiness is somewhat akin to, well, a small, lightweight experimental private aircraft.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:35 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's astonishing! Gas is only $3.85!
posted by adamp88 at 7:35 AM on April 3, 2012


I suspect that thing's road-crash-worthiness is somewhat akin to, well, a small, lightweight experimental private aircraft.

Or a wet paper bag. Take your pick.
posted by three blind mice at 7:36 AM on April 3, 2012


I can't believe a vehicle with that amount of blind spot is street legal.
posted by DU at 7:38 AM on April 3, 2012


Also, if somebody bumps one of those wings while you're in the Walmart and you're screwed.

That's when you engage its secret third form: battroid.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:42 AM on April 3, 2012


As much as I'd love to have a flying car, it would be terrifying to live in a world where they were ubiquitous unless they flew themselves and the owners were just passengers. I don't trust most drivers on the ground, letting them fly is just asking for a flying car to join you in bed via impromptu skylight.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:42 AM on April 3, 2012


Hmmm well at least it's not Moller but goddamn it is ugly! As is the company website.

As an aviation nut with a soft spot for David Suzuki I am far more excited by the Chinese Yuneec E430 Eletric Aircraft which is beautiful to look at, economical and reliable.
posted by numberstation at 7:50 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect that thing's road-crash-worthiness is somewhat akin to, well, a small, lightweight experimental private aircraft.

Yes. With a curb weight of 970 pounds, I suspect it would fair poorly in a collision even with the ultra tiny Smart Fortwo (1808 pounds).
posted by RichardP at 8:01 AM on April 3, 2012


Terrafugia has been at this for awhile; it's a serious team and they intend to build a commercial product. Showing this thing off on the road and in flight is a big step for them, and congratulations.

To the comments above they are very clear the thing is an airplane first, a car second. Their name for it is a "roadable airplane". Really this is an airplane that you can tow home and put in you garage, with the added convenience that you don't need a separate truck to tow the plane. If it works it could be a big help to folks who like to bum around in airplanes; it's a huge hassle figuring out how to get from the airport to anywhere interesting on the ground.

21 mpg in the air is not bad but not great. 105 mph in cruise is awfully slow. (For comparison, the 35 year old Cessna Cardinal I fly is 16 mpg and 160 mph). The nice thing is they qualify as a Light Sport Aircraft; that means a pilot can fly it without needing an FAA medical and opens up the market to all these retired guys who want to fly but are grounded by the FAA's overly strict medical rules. OTOH $279,000 base price is about double what a comparable non-driveable airplane would cost.
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't trust most drivers on the ground, letting them fly is just asking for a flying car to join you in bed via impromptu skylight.

Yes. I suspect that driver competence decreases exponentially with the number of dimensions that need negotiating. Given the levels of ineptitude we display in two dimensions, the addition of a third should strike fear into the heart of anyone who's ever even heard of an automobile.
posted by invitapriore at 8:06 AM on April 3, 2012


$279,000 base price is about double what a comparable non-driveable airplane would cost.

How much is monthly airport fee for a normal airplane?
posted by stbalbach at 8:07 AM on April 3, 2012


I pay $75 a month to park mine outside on a tie-down spot. I'd prefer a hangar but around here they're about $400 a month.
posted by exogenous at 8:14 AM on April 3, 2012


So flying cars are Harrier jets...?
posted by LogicalDash at 8:15 AM on April 3, 2012


I am glad it isn't a another Moller Skycar post. Those suckers have been a "few years" from production for decades.
posted by Badgermann at 8:16 AM on April 3, 2012


Hangar costs are one reason I've heard in support of this vehicle: you could just park it in a garage at home and drive to the airport. The other is that you would automatically have a car to get around after landing at your destination. But I bet "car" insurance would be astronomical considering what would be involved in repairing damage from a minor collision. It also looks like it would be really sketchy to drive in a crosswind. There's not a big market for these, but I think they're neat.
posted by exogenous at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2012


Huh. You know, if you took something like the drivable autogyro Pink Fuzzy Bunny linked and you made it a bit more rugged (I'm thinking something stripped down and open like an ultralight's frame) and offered a pontoon/impeller kit for water operation, a treads/skis kit for snow operation, etc, you'd have a badass workhorse for search & rescue and nature preserve/large park administration.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2012


We've had flying cars for decades. They're called "Helicopters"

Anyway, this thing looks quite silly and more problematic, it seems ridiculously unsafe: on the road. Has this thing been crash tested? Airplanes need to be light, and they don't usually have the safety stuff that cars do, which adds a lot of weight. It's hard to imagine this thing doing well in a front end collision

Secondly, it seems like even a minor fender bender would basically destroy the wings. Maybe they're easy to replace. They'd also provide a lot of extra padding I guess, perhaps making side impacts less dangerous.

Kind of ironic that the biggest challenge with making a plane that drives on the road is the fact that the road is so much more dangerous.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on April 3, 2012


As it flies, it looks like the nose is constantly swinging a little from side to side.

It looked to me like the pilot was just being a little heavy-handed (footed?) with the rudder pedals. It could also have been some nasty Dutch roll, but that's not what it looked like to me.

This aircraft really has always seemed a "jack of all trades" problem since the beginning. You can't have a normal mechanic work on this, you need an aircraft mechanic. Any dent or paint scratch is going to be exponentially more expensive to repair than for a normal car. It flies, but not very fast.

Their marketing has always billed it as allowing the pilot to drive if the weather gets lousy, but the people they're aiming this at - sport pilots - aren't using aircraft for "transportation", they're using it to go for short-distance joyrides. And while light sport aircraft are supposed to be simpler and cheaper in order to facilitate the fewer hours of training required for the license, this plane is adding complexity with two drivetrains and folding wings. I'll start a pool for when the first pilot forgets to fold up the wings and rips them off driving through the airport gate.

The "last mile" problem has been bothering pilots since they started traveling recreationally with their aircraft, but I don't think this is the solution. Call a cab, or buy a folding bike.

Plus, this thing is ugly as sin and everyone knows airplanes must look beautiful in order to fly.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:01 AM on April 3, 2012


Thank goodness it's so difficult to build a mass-market flying car. If it weren't, then maybe we'd all have them. That would be a terrible thing, for so many reasons.
posted by gurple at 9:02 AM on April 3, 2012


I'll be driving in my tunneling underground car to avoid all you yokels flying around in the air.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:12 AM on April 3, 2012


I'll be driving in my tunneling underground car...

You may run into the Subocean Geotron.
posted by foonly at 9:30 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, great, this is progress: now one can be hit by a car while alseep in a second story bedroom.
posted by y2karl at 10:14 AM on April 3, 2012


At almost $280K, this costs $130K more than an LSA with similar performance, such as the Cessna Skycatcher*.

I'd imagine $130K would go a long way toward making up the Terrafugia's savings in fuel and ground transportation costs.


----------------
*The priciest of the type.
posted by notyou at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


21 mpg in the air is not bad but not great. 105 mph in cruise is awfully slow. (For comparison, the 35 year old Cessna Cardinal I fly is 16 mpg and 160 mph).

With any aircraft it's a tradeoff between performance, fuel, payload, flexibility and other factors. You can tell by looking at it the Transition has more than its share of induced and parasite drag, as dictated by its roadworthiness mission.

Given hangar space at $400/month, it would take 30 years to make back the difference between Transition and a Skycatcher (taking notyou's figure at face value).

Still, this is pretty cool though the Cardinal I soloed in was a fine airplane. I stopped flying it before I got far enough in my training to really appreciate it.

For me flying is partly about the nostalgia. I might be a bit sad to buy one of these and find it smelled like a car instead of an airplane. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about it!
posted by maniabug at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2012


Not sure what to make of that yawing after takeoff in the video. Was the pilot just being sloppy, or dealing with some gusts? How much rudder authority does it have? While the rudders don't look real big, there are 2 of them. I wouldn't expect a lot of adverse yaw from those short wings but I think that also goes up with higher wing loading.
posted by maniabug at 10:53 AM on April 3, 2012


Firstly, this is just a personal plane with folding wings.

Secondly, flying cars are impractical when you have personal planes and helicopters as well as an assortment of other smaller, lighter personal flying machines.

I imagine if there were something like a 'flying car', to qualify it would have to have technology that doesn't yet exist. But the whole idea is just ridiculous. Flying cars already exist, they're just expensive and not everyone can own one.
posted by Malice at 12:47 PM on April 3, 2012


As it flies, it looks like the nose is constantly swinging a little from side to side. Is that because it's fishtailing like a rear-wheel drive car?

Seems like a light case of Dutch roll, which isn't altogether surprising, considering the strong wing dihedral, short lever arm of the twin vertical stabilizers and large lateral surface of the forward fuselage. It probably needs either longer twin booms (tricky) or at least vertical stabilizers (easier).
posted by Skeptic at 12:53 PM on April 3, 2012


ll these retired guys who want to fly but are grounded by the FAA's overly strict medical rules.

Greaaaaaaat.
posted by spitbull at 2:18 PM on April 3, 2012


I suspect that thing's road-crash-worthiness is somewhat akin to, well, a small, lightweight experimental private aircraft.

I wonder if it is more or less dangerous to say trade an hour of undivided highway driving with this thing. Around here lots of people commute from outlying areas over fairly dangerous rural mountain roads and highways to get to town. Replacing that dangerous travel with reduced crashworthyness in town might be worth it.

I can't believe a vehicle with that amount of blind spot is street legal.

Looks better than pretty well any medium or heavy duty commercial vehicle I've ever driven.
posted by Mitheral at 2:40 PM on April 3, 2012


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