Turn in your Prius and get ready to rumble, Jetson-style. That's right: There's a new car in town, and it's flying right at you.
Developed by former schoolmates of yours truly at the MIT Aero-Astro Department, the Transition calls itself a Roadable Light Sport Aircraft — because apparently it's too shy for the media frenzy that will ensue once people realize it's a car that can fly. Or, more accurately, a plane that can drive, say its creators:
Every pilot faces uncertain weather, rising costs, and ground transportation hassles on each end of the flight. The Transition® combines the unique convenience of being able to fold its wings with the ability to drive on any surface road in a modern personal airplane platform. Stowing the wings for road use and deploying them for flight at the airport is activated from inside the cockpit. This unique functionality addresses head-on the issues faced by today’s Private and Sport Pilots.
The Transition can skirt these issues because of recent FAA regulations designed to attract new pilots, says Discovery News:
In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration created a new category of aircraft and license for sport aviation, an attempt to re-awaken interest in flying after steady drops in the number of licensed pilots. ... Sport pilot licenses don't require as many hours of training as private and commercial pilot licenses, though sport fliers are not eligible to take off and land at runways with air traffic control towers. The medical requirements for sport pilots also are less stringent than for other types of pilot licenses, matching what is needed for a driver's license.
Yes, the problem with flying is all that pesky carpooling to the airport, and the annoyance of coordinating with air traffic control. That's probably what killed the first "roadable aircraft," the Aerocar, which was designed in the late 1940s by Moulton Taylor and flown on television by James May in 2008:
Still, I took some comfort from the fact that the yahoos who double-park in cities and speed on windy country roads would probably find themselves ineligible for a pilot's license. Times are a-changin', however; come 2010, when the first Transition is expected to coast into the waiting arms of its buyer, we might get a very different view of safety in the skies.
"Flying Car" Goes to Market [Discovery via MSNBC]
Image from Terrafugia.