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Drive to the airport, get clearance, and take off in your flying... car?

At least that’s the plan for the half-car, half-plane hybrid craft called the Transition that’s in development by Woburn, Mass.–based company Terrafugia. On March 5, the Transition took off on its maiden flight from Plattsburgh International Airport in upstate New York. Though the test craft only reached about 100 feet (30 meters) and stayed aloft less than 40 seconds, the successful flight lets Terrafugia move forward with making a full prototype to test next summer.

“The story here is that this is real,” says retired Air Force Colonel Phil Meteer, chief test pilot for Terrafugia, a former fighter pilot who has now added a flying car to his roster of flown vehicles. “The concept of flying cars has come a long way from when I doodled them as a kid.”

Dimension-wise, the craft sports a wingspan of 27 and a half feet (8 meters) and is almost 19 feet (6 meters) long. Where do those wings go when not taking to the skies? They fold up against the craft’s sides so it takes up just six and a half feet (2 meters) when on the highway and the backstreets. Plus, this way the vehicle fits in your garage, Terrafugia says.

The company envisions the vehicle as one that amateur pilots can keep at home and take on recreational jaunts when they have the urge to take flight. Terrafugia intends for the Transition to reach an altitude of 1,700 feet (518 meters) and a cruising velocity of 115 miles (185 kilometers) per hour. For the road and sky, it will use regular gasoline. Meteer says the Transition “drives nice” on hardtop, and that he had the hang of driving it after tooling around for a minute. The company intends for the craft to have a range of about 400 miles (644 kilometers), so depending on one’s speed, the Transition could stay aloft for four hours or so.

Terrafugia says the Federal Aviation Administration qualifies the Transition as a Light-Sport Aircraft, which means that people who want to get a pilot’s license to fly it would avoid some of the considerable time and expense that full-scale certification entails for larger craft.

Forty-five people have already put deposits down on the Transition, Meteer says. The vehicle could be on the market as soon as 2011 for about $200,000 a pop, according to Terrafugia.

Other flying car concepts floating around today include the Haynes Skyblazer, a similar car-cum-plane combo, and the Parajet SkyCar, a dune buggylike vehicle powered on biofuels.

Another cutting-edge vehicle in the works in the U.K. is a jet- and rocket-powered car that could hit 1,000 miles (1609 kilometers) per hour in under 40 seconds, making it faster than a bullet shot from a .357 magnum. For more on that car, dubbed the Bloodhound SSC, check out this ScientificAmerican.com report.

Images Credit: Terrafugia

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