Friday, July 2, 2010

Simply land at the airport, fold your wings up and drive home." Who hasn't imagined a future when the personal airplane takes the place of the personal automobile? Thanks to a go-ahead from the FAA this week, that possibility is looming even closer today. The FAA has classified the Terrafugia Transition as a "light sport aircraft," which is the smallest classification for a private airplane. This means that it is possible to get a license to fly the thing with only 20 hours of flying time, much less than a standard pilot's license.

The FAA's classification came as the result of an exemption, since light sport aircraft are to weigh no more than 1,320 pounds. The Terrafugia Transition is 110 pounds heavier than that because of the safety equipment it needs to be a road-going vehicle.

On the highway, the Terrafugia Transition's wings fold electrically from inside the cockpit in half a minute, and it becomes a front-wheel-drive car, albeit an awkward-looking one, that can achieve 30 miles per gallon and a top speed of 65 mph. The company also notes that it can fit into a standard garage when folded up. As a plane, the Transition needs a 2,500-foot runway for takeoff, can cruise at 115 mph and has a 460-mile range. Weight capacity is 450 pounds. It runs on standard automotive unleaded gasoline, the company says.