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For more than a century, science fiction writers have been tormenting us with visions of flying machines that could be driven on roads as well as in air. A number of businesses have been pursuing this dream for a long time but none has taken off yet.
Now a Massachusetts-based company named Terrafugia has designed a flying car that will be displayed at the New York International Auto show in April this year. The car, technically called the Transition, has foldable wings which retracts when it is on the road. The Transition has a wingspan of 26 feet that tucks in and out with the push of a button, altering between a flying machine and a car within 30 seconds. With a full tank, the car can fly for 460 miles at the speed of 110 miles per hour.
Terrafugia has said that the car will be ready for sale by the end of the year. It is expected to sell for $279,000 and about 100 of the aircraft/car have already been booked.
The flying car has been cleared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for use on roads and granted it special exemptions as a roadable aircraft. The car has also been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration for flight as a "light sport aircraft".
Terrafugia Inc. said extensive analysis and simulated crash testing are also being employed with industry partners to ensure that the Transition meets all other applicable crash safety standards. The NHTSA's exemptions allowed the roadable aircraft to use lightweight plastic windows and use a different type of tire than that used by other vehicles. In order to prevent shattering of the windshield in case of a bird-hit, Terrafugia used polycarbonate materials instead of automotive safety glass. The tires are heavier like any other small aircraft to handle landings as well as road driving.
"This is an aeroplane first and foremost. The idea is you can drive it to and from a regulation airport. Fully fueled, you can fly it for a range of 400 to 450 miles”, said Richard Gersh, VP Business Development of Terrafugia.
The 2012 New York International Auto Show will be held from April 6 through the 15th.