Flying cars have been coming off designer’s draw boards since shortly after the Wright brothers demonstrated practical, powered flight. Designs by Glen Curtiss, Robert Fulton and Molt Taylor have been novelties and a commercial failures because cars that fly and airplanes that drive are impractical compromises.
Terrafugia is offering a 30-mpg two-seat car that sprouts wings and flies at a speed of 115 mph. For a mere $194,000, buyers get an unadorned two-seat vehicle that is a Light Sport Aircraft airplane and a marginal automobile. It won’t win any races or beauty contests
Seventy buyers have put down a $10,000 deposit to own one—if the manufacturer obtains full certification from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. The Terrafugia received a waiver from the FAA’s LSA weight restriction so the car could pass vehicle safety standards and prototypes are conducting flight tests in hopes of entering production next year. Video of the Terrfugia in action.
The LSA category was created to “save” general aviation for the everyman flyer who was unsatisfied with Ultralight category airplanes, but with price tags astronomically high, the LSA category has devolved to benefit pilots who can no longer pass the flight physical for a regular private or commercial flight certificate. The majority of LSA airplanes sold have been to flight schools who have worn out the existing fleet of trainer aircraft and looking for a (only slightly) cheaper substitute for the normal category airplanes available.
As a pilot who no longer flies professionally and ekes out a living as a free-lance journalist, I cannot afford tens of thousands for an ultralight, hundreds of thousands for an LSA, or the million-plus for a true cross-country or instrument flight four-seat airplane. The cost of aviating, for a myriad of reasons including fuel costs, regulation, insurance, certification, parts and liability, is the biggest deterrent to the growth of general aviation in the United States.
The $200,000-plus cost of this flying car would buy a real nice car, a pretty good used airplane, a few years hangar fees and some nights in a hotel when the weather gets in the way of flying. The Terrafugia is not the answer to encouraging general aviation growth, but when somebody in Arizona buys one, will you take me for a ride?