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Transportation Technology

Flying Car Ready To Take Off 315

ChazeFroy writes "The first flying automobile, equally at home in the sky or on the road, is scheduled to take to the air next month. If it survives its first test flight, the Terrafugia Transition, which can transform itself from a two-seater road car to a plane in 15 seconds, is expected to land in showrooms in about 18 months' time. Terrafugia claims it will be able to fly up to 500 miles on a single tank of unleaded petrol at a cruising speed of 115mph. Even at $200,000 per automobile, they have already received 40 orders."
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Flying Car Ready To Take Off

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  • Rules? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Godwin O'Hitler ( 205945 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:46AM (#26415227) Journal

    Has anybody made an attempt at drafting traffic rules for flying cars yet?

    • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Funny)

      by FiveLights ( 1012605 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:14AM (#26415361)
      Rules? Where we're going we don't need rules...
    • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yabos ( 719499 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:15AM (#26415367)
      In the air they have to obey the same rules as other planes. On the ground they have to obey the same rules as other cars. Simple as that. Also to fly one of these things you need a private pilot's license so it's not like any yuppie with 200K is going to be able to fly it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark ( 640295 )

        wont stop them from trying tho, much like a lack of that pesky drivers license do not stop many from driving cars...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by yabos ( 719499 )
          Maybe not but people don't seem to be stealing private aircraft very often. Maybe if this one was in your drive way it'd be more tempting to steal but it still looks like in order to fly it you have to unfold the wings by hand. It's not like James Bond where the wings fold out electrically and you fly away from the bad guys chasing you.
          • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Informative)

            by TerranFury ( 726743 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:05AM (#26415671)

            It's not like James Bond where the wings fold out electrically

            Actually, from TFA, it is... The wings are actuated electromechanically; you just push a button in the cockpit.

          • by hitmark ( 640295 )

            private aircrafts often find themselves far away from punks, and/or behind some nice high fences with barbed wire on top...

            another reason could be the ease of hotwiring, but i must admit im not familiar with the difficulty of that on a small aircraft (altho ms flight sim kinda gives a impression on the number of actions needed to take to get a cessna going).

            • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Informative)

              by Suzuran ( 163234 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:57AM (#26416109)

              Actually, you don't need to hotwire an airplane. Just disconnect the grounding wires from the magnetos and turn the prop over by hand, and away she goes. The engine is electrically powered by its own rotation and does not need a battery and alternator to keep it running. To stop one, you have to ground out the magnetos or shut off the fuel supply. There is actually an item in the preflight checklists of most small aircraft to verify that the grounding switches still operate, otherwise you will have problems shutting down at your destination. (It's hard on the engine to kill it by starving it of fuel, and drains the carb float bowls which can complicate restarting.)

              This sounds unsafe, but this is by design - They didn't want an electrical fault to kill an engine. The radios and such will die without the battery, but as long as the engine has fuel and air, it will turn.

              • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Informative)

                by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:13AM (#26416273) Homepage

                There is actually an item in the preflight checklists of most small aircraft to verify that the grounding switches still operate, otherwise you will have problems shutting down at your destination.

                It's not just that - you shut down each magneto in turn, so you can prove that both systems are working. Most piston aeromotive engines have two complete ignitions systems, with two magnetos and two sets of spark plugs. When you switch one off, then engine revs will drop a little. This way you can work out if a) the magneto is working, and b) the ignition switch is switching it off. If the revs don't drop, either that magneto isn't working or is staying on. If you switch the other one off and the revs drop, the first magneto isn't switching off. If you switch it off and the engine stops altogether, the first one wasn't working.

                • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Informative)

                  by wjsteele ( 255130 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @01:59PM (#26419855)
                  That is incorrect. The mag check is used to determine that the primary ignition systems are firing all cylinders. In the event of a failure, the plane will still have a working ingition system to power the engine, though on a slightly reduced power level.

                  We DO NOT use the switch to kill the engine at the destination, however. Instead, we pull the mixture to cut off the fuel flow to the engine. Starving the engine of fuel prevents the mag from firing any residual fuel left in the cylinder after engine shut off. If we don't, someone just walking by the front of the plane can move the prop and have it accidently fire up. That would not be a good situation and many people have been killed because of it.

                  And yes, I am a pilot.

              • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Informative)

                by jsight ( 8987 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:18AM (#26416321) Homepage

                (It's hard on the engine to kill it by starving it of fuel, and drains the carb float bowls which can complicate restarting.)

                Not true at all, and in fact most light singles are shut down by pulling the mixture, which essentially does just that (starving it of fuel).

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by yabos ( 719499 )
                The Lycoming engines in the Cessna 152s and 172s I fly are shut off by pulling the mixture to idle cut off. I don't think this is a big deal for the engine since it's the recommended procedure by the Pilot's Operating Handbook for these planes. When starting it you usually prime 3 times which sprays fuel in the carburetor.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by GooberToo ( 74388 )

                This sounds unsafe, but this is by design - They didn't want an electrical fault to kill an engine. The radios and such will die without the battery, but as long as the engine has fuel and air, it will turn.

                Ignoring the latest generation of light, single and twin piston aircraft which have dual electronic ignition, which do require a functioning power bus and battery.

                There is even an accident on record of a Diamond [] twin engine [] crashing immediately after take off because of dead batteries, despite it being d

        • One big difference is that when driving unless you do something suspicious you are unlikely to have to speak to anyone outside your car for the whole journey.

          Whereas to use this thing you will have to take it into an airport (past whatever security they have), switch to airplane mode, taxi to the runway and then take off maintaining contact with air traffic control. I would think most airports would ask questions if you weren't already known to them and/or you didn't seem to know all the flying jargon.

          I gue

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by powerlord ( 28156 )

            Not to burst your bubble, but quite a lot of more rural places have small airfields with little checking.

            Some friends used to have one in back of their property that was shared by covenant between the 10 or 12 houses that shared the complex.

            Everyone pitched in to maintain the grass airstrip. They had a windsock at the end, no lights or instruments, and it was listed on local aviation charts (along with lots of other like-rated strips).

            Taking off in a plane wouldn't be the problem. Once you hit a high enou

      • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Funny)

        by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:40AM (#26415499)

        In the air they have to obey the same rules as other planes. On the ground they have to obey the same rules as other cars. Simple as that.

        Either way I cannot wait for the first police chase involving one of these on the road. It will be fucking exciting, especially when the chase leaves the road . Better than Dukes of Hazzard on their best day :)

        That SOB is going to get TIVO'd.

      • Re:Rules? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by phoenix321 ( 734987 ) * on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:41AM (#26415505)

        Well, the rules above ground are drafted for professionals with thousands of logged hours. We can either require that for everyone who wants to fly or we can draft simpler rules in height-confined airspace. Maybe we already have, in VFR flight levels, I don't know.

        • Re:Rules? (Score:5, Informative)

          by KillerBob ( 217953 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:15AM (#26415739)

          ... You can get a private pilot's license, good for light aircraft and night flying, for about $5,000, with about 100 hours logged. Simulator time counts. It's really not that much of an impediment, and this thing will probably be small enough to count as a light aircraft.

          My real question is what kind of fuel it runs on. There aren't a lot of aircraft that'll run well on less than avgas, and avgas is very expensive. (The aircraft I trained on was a Diamond Eclipse, which *will* run on premium unleaded, but runs a lot better on avgas....)

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by areusche ( 1297613 )
            The quick little article synopsis said unleaded petrol, which I am assuming is 94 unleaded gasoline!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jsight ( 8987 )

            You can get a private pilot's license, good for light aircraft and night flying, for about $5,000, with about 100 hours logged.

            Simulator time or not, 100 hrs @ $50/hr avg is going to be hard to come by. I think most folks end up closer to $7500/60 hrs.

        • Well, the rules above ground are drafted for professionals with thousands of logged hours.

          No they're not. You can get a Light Sport license with 20 hours of flight time. That only lets you fly a very limited class of aircraft in VFR, of course. But even a full fledged private license only takes about 40 hours, and instrument rating is only about 100 hours total. At that point you're allowed to fly IFR flight plans in controlled airspace the same as any "professional" pilot (though as a private pilot you're

          • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:53AM (#26416785) Homepage Journal

            Just to clarify, Private Pilots can fly in any VFR [] (Visual Flight Rules) airspace. With just the private pilot ticket (no further endorsements) you can fly a plane up to (but not including) 200hp, fixed gear, fixed single prop, below 18,000 feet, and a sufficient distance away from clouds to qualify for VFR. You need a current third-class medical and a bi-annual flight review and you're good to go with yourself and/or friends anywhere you want.

            To traverse class B or C airspace you need a working radio and transponder in the plane and you need to obey the controller. In class D, G, or unclassified airspace you just need to not hit anything.

            Also, these days I'm not aware of many weekend fliers who can get the license in 40 hours. To do that you pretty much need to go to a focused school and be on an airline pilot track. I'd say 50-60 hours is about average.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        From the website, one needs a Sport Plane certificate, which can be had in 20 hours. That's what scares me. I'm not sure on the timeframe for my fixed wing cousins, but must helicopter pilots solo, for the first time, at right around 20 hours. I've yet to meet someone that I'd be comfortable signing off to go on their own at 20 hours. Yes, I realize that the Sport Plane cert is pretty limiting. That's really not the point. No one looks at flying, and it's requirements, and says, "I'm going to hit thos
        • by yabos ( 719499 )
          I agree, the sport pilots license is not that much less work than the private once you're done it. The minimum hours are less but in actuality most people take about 1.5 to 2.0 times the minimum hours to get their certificate/license. I'm actually doing my private right now and most people will solo around 20 hrs or so as well. All that really involves is flying a few touch and goes, nothing big, so that's no harder than what the pilot has been doing before the solo.
    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      The only rules i know related to flying cars so far are more related to avoid meeting yourself in the future or your mother when she was young.

      Considering that this ones are more like planes than i.e. DeLorean using antigrav and powered by mr.fusion, probably planes/helicopters/etc rules should apply.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )


      nobody with an IQ under 110 can even own one.

      That would be a HUGE start to making them far safer than the cars on the road.

      • Great so we get a bunch of pompous jerks driving in the air ways each one thinking they are smarter then everyone else so everything else is not their fault.

        There are 2 Major Interstates that cross threw the area they both have the same amount of people driving on it however there are very different driving patterns on it. One comes from a very upscale town neighborhoods where you have a lot of intelligent/successful workers coming into the city, the the other road is where the more run down cities,

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

          There's really no correlation between financial success and intelligence. Those people in the rat race aren't happy anyway. Studies have shown that the American dream is a big fucking crock.

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          Upscale/rich most certainly does not equal intelligent. Not even by a long shot.

          Most rich I know are incredibly dumb when it comes to technical (let alone most everything else) what they are good at is schmoozing and selling. (Yes I know, all my clients are $350K a year and higher income level)

          Financial success is 1% you know and 99% of who you know.

          Hell I know master degree holders that are as dumb as a box of rocks, so don't even look at education as a sign of intelligence either.

    • Stay under 88mph?

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      I agree, we need rules. Here is my proposal : anything about flying cars that only use future tense and that promise something in more than one year should not make it to Slashdot frontpage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:49AM (#26415245)

    seriously. most people can barely control a car on the ground. or even keep one properly maintained.

    and you want to put these folks into the air? over your house? yeah... i don't think so.

    thats what you call a 'bad idea'.


    • Really I'm glad a pilot's license is a lot harder to obtain. I just wish they weren't so expensive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fprintf ( 82740 )

        For someone who can afford one of these flying cars, it is likely the cost barrier for a pilot's license does not exist. What is likely to exist, however, is the time barrier. Typically, unless cashed out, retired or otherwise not working, people that can afford this kind of luxury are working their asses of with very little free time.

        With that said, in the U.S. I there are new Sport Pilot licenses that might fit this usage perfectly. The licenses are much easier to obtain, with the associated training cent

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bucc5062 ( 856482 )

          The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours for a PVT license. On average the training time is much longer. It took 63 hours to achieve my PVT rating. Flying has gotten more complex since the days when the government established the initial time limit. Not so much the actual flying, but the rules, and that instructors are teaching better judgment these days. That takes time.

          I think I'll wait till they automate a flying car into traffic before considering a purchase.

          • That depends a lot on the person, though. I got my license in 48 hours.

            Me, I'd actually consider one of these things; it actually meets most of my concerns with buying a plane... the only barrier to me right now is cost. However, with a bit more business, who knows? :)

          • by Mascot ( 120795 )

            The site states as little as 20 hours flight time required for a licence specific to this gizmo.

            I don't think this will exactly hit the mass market anytime soon. But it would be bloody brilliant if it did. Living in a country that barely has a mile worth of straight road in total, it would absolutely slash travel time for longer trips.

            If the vehicle itself eventually ends up priced for the average consumer, I'm sure the infrastructure and regulations would find a way to accommodate it in such a way that the

    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:15AM (#26415373)
      Yes we will have flying cars. Only they'll be nothing like a tiny airplane, and fully automated. Fully programmed VTOL is the only thing that would happened. May be a long shot, but we won't get anything short of that no matter what.
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:02AM (#26415665) Homepage

        The moller skycar is not even a real prtotype, it's a vaporware fake demo.

        we will NOT have VTOL flying cars. Have you seen what a harrier does to pavement when it takes off or lands vertically? IT even blisters the hell out of super thick concrete. and no fan or turbofan in existence will do a decent VTOL without being 3X the size ofthe aircraft.

        Flying cars will NOT happen. The general public is far too stupid to own one, and you would have to put in safety systems that make the car refuse to move when periodic service is needed. Hell my old Piper Comanche needed it's wings replaced for every 1000 hours of flight, and that was nearly the fricking cost of the aircraft! (which is when I sold it.)

    • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:20AM (#26415401) Journal

      There's a quick solution to that problem, and it doesn't even require any technical or legislative changes: don't call it a flying car!

      Even their website doesn't use the term 'car'; it's clearly marketed towards pilots not drivers and they call it a "Roadable Aircraft". It's being sold to people who already fly, but want to be able to get from door to door rather than airfield to airfield - an idea which makes sense to me.

    • by should_be_linear ( 779431 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:23AM (#26415413)

      I, for one, (not welcoming anybody) am dreaming of flying car that I can select my destination on some dialer a then let central computer take me there. I wouldn't put my family into flying car that I am supposed to fly. What they have is not flying car, it is airplane you can drive. Flying car should be, first of all *car* - something that Joe Sixpack can use easily in (relatively) safe way.

    • Ever heard of this thing called a "pilot license?" Yeah... "most people" neither have them nor an opportunity to get one, and they'll be required to operate one of these things.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)


      Now Farmer's Markets will have to equip Flak cannons.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Make sure not to hit the "transform back to car" button while you're in mid air.

    • by ja ( 14684 )
      Easy, just place the "transform back to car" handle on the outside.
  • by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:55AM (#26415273) Homepage
    and while many of them have taken off, none of them have taken off
  • by _Shad0w_ ( 127912 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:58AM (#26415281)

    Calling it the first flying car is a bit misleading; there are quite a few pre-existing flying cars, it's just none of them was ever a commercial success. There's still an Aerocar about with an airworthiness certificate.

    The main problem with a flying car is the number of certificates you need to get in order to be able to use it.

    • The main problem with a flying car is the number of certificates you need to get in order to be able to use it.

      If you owned a plane and a car you would still need both certificates.

  • by Cephacles ( 1447237 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:02AM (#26415305)
    It's a driveable airplane. [] One key difference is it is marketed to licensed pilots.

    I wonder how many airports are out there that have a path from the runway to the road that isn't fenced off or have some other barrier to getting this craft on the road.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alarindris ( 1253418 )
      I would think they all would have a fairly easy way of getting out. Doesn't the mail go through regular passenger planes?
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Nope no mail on planes, no packages on planes... those UPS and FEDEX planes are all fake cardboard cutouts.

        Every airport has an easy way to get cars, trucks, tanks, and other vehicles on the runway.

    • are these things not VTOLs? in which case, why would they need a runway?

      • silly me. picture in article doesn't look remotely VTOL.

        but in that case, i don't really see the point - if it's not a VTOL, it would need to take off and land at airports, in which case why not just use an airplane?

        • by jandrese ( 485 )
          You're basically paying $200,000 for the luxury of not having to deal with airport parking.
    • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:48AM (#26415557) Homepage

      Actually that isn't a problem. There are many general aviation airports that rent hangar space to aircraft owners (in fact almost all airports do). You drive your car onto the airport and park right next to your hangar, get it your plane and take off. In this case you can taxi your airplane off the runway, onto the private airport road, then out of the airport. Remember this is a plane the size of a car with folded wings. No problem!

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      Most small untowered airports.

      Some of them might have a fence with a gate, but any of the pilots would have the key. It is not uncommon to see people just drive up to the plane, get in, and tax to the runway.

  • This is a plane which can also stow it's wings and drive on roads. You will need an aircraft pilots licence, you will need to take off and land at aircraft runways. This is not a flying car like the moller which envisioned VTOL from your driveway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      This is not a flying car like the moller which envisioned VTOL from your driveway.

      And that's probably a good thing. Why is it that everyone understands that you have to have an Atari 2600 before you can have a PS3 but, when it comes to the "flying car", they expect the future today.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:17AM (#26415381) Homepage

    I wouldn't want to be around when one of these that has done 20,000 miles of potholes, salt, grit and all the other things you drive through on the road that mess up vehicles takes to the air because god knows what it would do to a light airframe over 10 or 20 years. Sure , you're supposed to do maintenance - but that doesn't prevent loads of cars breaking down at the side of the road due to lack of it. If people drive this like a car (even if they're qualified pilots) they may start to treat it like a car rather than like an aircraft and skip on servicing. The rest you can guess.

  • Holy cow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:56AM (#26415611) Homepage

    I SAW one of these things on I-80, and spent some time with Google trying to figure out what the thing was. Unfortunately it was being towed, rather than driving under its own power, but still. The wings were folded up but there's no mistaking the shape of the thing.


  • Flying cars are great, you can now get revenge when a bird shits on you.

  • Order now, and as a special bonus you also get: It's butt ugly!

    Strange in a society where streamlined aerodynamic everything tends to be viewed as beautiful.

  • TFA says words to the effect, "First delivery anticipated 2010." Along with Windows 7 and Duke Nukem Forever. Whether the company will still be around in 2010 to deliver the orders they've already taken is very much an open question. Whether these aircraft will be street-legal in any state in the U.S. is another open question.
  • At [] they have a gyrocopter version. I think it looks way cooler (no product photos yet though).

    Disclaimer: I know an employee of this company.

  • Flying cars are one of those sci-fi ideas that are good on paper but right now, not in practice. How much fuel does a flying car take to fly? Cars have rolling resistance, for sure, but keeping an aircraft up in the air would take more energy, and hence, more fuel, would it not?

  • by Viceroy Potatohead ( 954845 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:50AM (#26416023) Homepage
    January: Obama becomes president.
    One month later: Flying cars.

    What's next?
    Thanksgiving: Immortality.
    Christmas: Girlfriend!

    Clearly, all this fuss about Obama has been well placed! He's not even in power yet and the flying cars are already on the way! :P
  • This one has already been test flown, and is about to set off on a publicity gathering expedition from London to Timbuktu.

    More details courtesy of BBC News here []. Basically it's a beachbuggy/powered paraglider combo. The guy behind it seems to know what he's doing with paragliders, he built and co-piloted the one that reached the top of mount everest.

  • I'd just like to point out this at quarter of the cost []
  • one thing that doesn't seem to be mentioned in the FAQ is how they are getting arround the legal issues surrounding fuel.

    IIRC they claim the transition can run on both 100LL and some kind of road fuel. This raises two issues

    1: I was under the understaning that leaded petrol was banned on the road, so if you ever fill up on 100LL you would have to clean out your tank before driving on the road.
    2: I was under the impression that catalytic converters were incompatible with leaded petrol and yet were required f

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford