Automakers are always touting the next big thing. This time, its the Terrafugia Transition, an amphibious car-plane vehicle with folding wings that could pull out of your suburbia driveway and take to the air. The vehicle was debuted at the New York International Auto Show in April.
Terrafugia has promised that their vehicle will be ready for consumer use in a year. However, there are a few bureaucratic hurdles that the company may need to clear before the vehicles can find a place in consumers’ garages.
According to the New York Times, government officials still need to decide whether auto or aircraft regulations will take precedence. The flying vehicle is in the “light sport category,” a new classification devised eight years ago by the Federal Aviation Administration to encourage the design of small, easy-to-fly aircraft.
The aircraft must have a single engine, unpressurized cabin, one or two seats, weigh no more than 1,320 pounds, and cap their max speed at 138 miles per hour. In the air, test pilots must successfully demonstrate the Transition’s ability to endure dives and spins, and its ability to recover from unexpected events in flight. Regulators will also determine if it can be easily handled by pilots with light-sport licenses which can be obtained with as little as 20 hours of instruction.
Terrafugia engineers decided to classify the car part of the Transition as a multipurpose vehicle, and must comply with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash standards. They sought waivers from N.H.T.S.A. on two requirements, receiving permission to use motorcycle tires and wheels to save weight and to use polycarbonate plastics for the windows, to make it safer in the air (automotive glass could be shattered by a bird strike).
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