Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Look up! It's a car about to land in Gotham!

Although the automotive world's eyes are on next week's Geneva auto show, the news is starting to trickle in for April's New York event.

Debuts are planned for the redesigned Buick Enclave, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Altima and SRT Viper, which previously was known as a Dodge.

But all these vehicles seem so 20th Century.

Frankly, I think the Big Apple's attention grabber may just be a car that's also an airplane, and the company says it's been approved by the FAA and NHTSA. Essentially, it's a street-legal airplane.
The two-seat, single-engine car/plane, called the Transition Roadable Aircraft, was developed by Terrafugia (terra-FOO-gee-ah), a Woburn, Maryland, aerospace company. It will be the Transiton's first time on display at a car show. Videos of the Transition on the road and in flight are featured here. The company portrays the Transition as an easy-to-use mode of transportation on the highway and in the air.
After landing, the pilot pushes a button, the wings fold up, and the plane turns into a car that can be driven home and parked in the family garage. That's assuming the owner has 80 inches of clearance. Nothing has to be detached from the car/aircraft structure to roll into the garage or added before take off. It's a complete package, the company says.
The company says NHTSA granted the Transition an exemption last summer so it could be driven on the highway.

As a plane it falls under the FAA's light sport aircraft category, which allows would-be-pilots to become certified pilots in about 20 hours, the company said in a news release.
The Transition is powered by a 100-hp piston engine that runs on unleaded regular. It is expected to have a highway range of about 800 miles or a cruising range in the air of nearly 500 miles. It can cruise at 105 mph in the air.

A carbon fiber safety cage protects the pilot/driver and passenger. If the pilot faces uncertain weather, he or she can land at a small airport and drive to the destination.
The piston engine is connected to a continuously variable transmission that engages either the rear-wheel drive system or the propeller. The car/plane weighs 970 pounds and can carry 460 pounds of pilot, passenger and cargo combined, giving it a gross take off weight of 1,430 pounds, the company says.

Better start that diet if you want one.

How expensive is the Transition? It's about the cost of four Cadillac Escalades. The estimated selling price is $279,000 and orders are being accepted.
Dual-transportation cars have been around since amphibious vehicles emerged during World War II. There was the novelty Amphicar in the 1960s and, more recently, Gibbs Technologies has been developing an amphibious sports car/speedboat vehicle called the Aquada.
In any case, the Transition will yield yet another definition for "off-road vehicle."

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