Flying Cars Nearing Retail Reality

Dennis Faas's picture

At most major automotive shows, the "star" attraction tends to be a really hot, really expensive sports car, or more recently an incredibly fuel-efficient hybrid.

But at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, what's stealing the spotlight is a flying car.

Early glimpses of the "Transition," a unique flying car from Massachusetts-based Terrafugia, were first seen back in 2010. At that time, the fledgling firm hoped it could start selling its ground-breaking dual-use vehicle by the end of 2011.

That timeline never quite panned out. But Terrafugia and its Transition flying car have continued to develop.

In fact, Terrafugia is presently further along in the process of building a viable flying car, and receiving the necessary legal go-ahead to start selling it, than any of its rivals.

The 'Transition' Is Your "Street Legal Airplane"

The Transition is technically classified as a "street legal airplane." In essence, it's a two-passenger vehicle that is capable of being driven on roads and flown through the air.

It's powered by conventional unleaded gasoline, the type you can buy at any neighborhood gas station. (Source:

Experimental flights have shown the Transition is able to operate on conventional roads, and can fly reliably at altitudes up to 1,400 feet.

The Transition is so close to manufacture and sale that Terrafugia is now accepting $10,000 down payments on its $279,000 flying car. The company says it hopes to make its first deliveries to customers before the end of 2012.

Dutch Company Developing Gyrocopter

Terrafugia is a leader in this market, but not alone in reaching for the skies. A Dutch company, PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle), has been working on a gyrocopter design for a land / air vehicle for about four years.

According to PAL-V, its gyrocopter is capable of reaching speeds of 110 miles-per-hour in the air and on the ground.

Its designers boast that it "drives like a sports car" while attaining extreme fuel efficiency. With all four wheels staying on the ground, the PAL-V gyrocopter can reportedly go 750 miles before needing to fill up. (Source:

Like the Transition, the PAL-V gyrocopter uses ordinary gasoline. Unlike the American-built device, however, pricing on the Dutch land / air vehicle is not yet determined.

Both the Transition flying car and the PAL-V gyrocopter are currently on view at the New York International Auto Show, which runs until April 15, 2012.

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