Flying Car Making Way to New York Auto Show

By Jennifer LeClaire

By putting its flying car on display at the New York International Auto Show, Terrafugia aims to get exposure among future owners, investors and partners. Terrafugia will present the latest generation Transition Roadable Aircraft production prototype as well as details of Terrafugia’s plans. Show attendees will see a video of the flying car in the air.

Are you ready to meet The Jetsons? That soon may be possible with a new flying car that’s headed to market.

Indeed, flying-car maker Terrafugia plans to put its Transition Roadable Aircraft on display at the 2012 New York International Auto Show April 6-15 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

Wait — Roadable Aircraft? So is it a car? An airplane? Some sort of robot in disguise, like a Transformer? Well, it’s not a robot. Technically, it’s an airplane that transforms into a car you can drive on the highways and byways.

“The Transition is a truly unique vehicle that represents an enormous step forward in how we view personal transportation and individual freedom,” said Alan Liebensohn, director of the New York International Auto Show. “We know it will be a huge crowd pleaser.”

MIT-Minded

Terrafugia didn’t come up with its Jetsons-like innovation overnight. The company has had the Transition in testing with engineers for years. The company, which was founded by pilots and engineers from MIT with support from advisers and private investors, finally decided it’s time to share its futuristic product with the masses.

By putting its flying car on display at the New York International Auto Show, Anna Mracek Dietrich, COO of Terrafugia, aims to get exposure among future owners, investors and partners. She called the show a “venue from which we can show the first practical street-legal airplane to the world while meeting the people who will be part of its commercial success in the years to come.”

At the show, Terrafugia will present the latest generation Transition production prototype as well as details of the company’s plans. Show attendees will get to see wing-folding demonstrations, as well as a video of the Transition in flight and on the road.

A Swiss Army Knife Car?

“Flying cars have been talked about since the 1920s. The problem is they tend to be bad planes and bad cars,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “It tends to be better and safer to have something that is optimized for one use or another. Flying cars historically have not worked well.”

Indeed, Wright Brothers’ competitor Glenn Curtiss goes down in history as the first to design a flying car in 1926 — but it couldn’t fly. Henry Ford displayed the “sky flivver” in 1926 and it also failed. Attempts continued post-World War II but never gained traction.

“We actually had a flying car in market in the 1970s,” Enderle said, referring to an invention called the AVE Mizar. “They basically strapped a set of wings onto a Pinto.

“It worked until the connectors failed at about 40,000 feet and the entire executive staff discovered that Pintos without wings don’t fly too well. The company went under.”

More modern attempts at flying cars include the Moller Skycar, a prototype Paul Moller designed and which is still under development. There are single-seat models and six-seat models planned.

“Moller has a better long-term chance of being successful because they are focused on doing one thing well as opposed to doing a few things well,” Enderle said. “I applaud companies that try to make flying cars, but you are asking a single vehicle to do too much when you are asking it to be good on the road and in the air.”

Source: sci-tech-today