A few times every year, I like to revisit one of the most exciting aviation projects out there right now, Terrafugia's Transition roadable aircraft. And if you get caught calling this a flying car, no kudos for you!
Terrafugia was founded by graduates of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the MIT Sloan School of Management. The entire team carries credentials that proves they are all very qualified to bring this great, great concept to market. Their prototype development is right on schedule, with anticipated completion in late 2008 and first deliveries in late 2009.
While there have been many supporters of this courageous project, a few skeptics keep focusing on the folding wing design as a possible area of concern. But as this project matures, those concerns are becoming a non-issue as they showed off a full-scale wing at Oshkosh this summer:
Over the course of the show, the full-scale wing was cycled through a complete fold and extend process over 500 times. This represents roughly five years of anticipated usage. Terrafugia's engineering team is very pleased with the results of this cycle testing as no fatigue problems were encountered with the wing design. The proof-of-concept wing, like much of the full vehicle, is constructed using carbon fiber and Kevlar composite materials with aluminum hard points bonded into the lay-up. When extended and locked, both the over-center lock at the root of the wing and the double-redundant latch at midspan are visibly locked and flush with the skin of the aircraft. This allows for an easy and fail-safe preflight as the pilot can both see and touch the locks, confirming the wing is ready for flight loads. As per ASTM Light-Sport Aircraft standards, the wing is designed for +4 G and -2 G loads.Sure, people always think first about that folding wing, but it is just one part of a very complex and bold design that marries a plane to a car. When you think about the million hoops this design team must jump through, usually the bumpers are not something that is top of the mind:
A Proof-of-Concept deformable aerodynamic bumper (patent pending) for use on the canard leading edge and elevator trailing edge has also been constructed and successfully undergone preliminary testing.So while the big automakers say their latest Escalade wannabes are "aerodynamic" to allow the gargantuan pigs to get a mileage figure in the preferable 20s (when coasting downhill), Terrafugia is actually designing real aerodynamic car parts that are as much airplane as they are automobile. With such an intriguing design, you would think that Team Terrafugia would be in high demand at speaking engagements, and you would be correct:
Since returning from Oshkosh, members of the Terrafugia team have spoken at the SAE AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Los Angeles, CA, the NCAE Leadership Conference on Aviation and Space Education in Arlington, VA, and at a meeting of the Burlington RC Flyers in Lexington, MA. At the beginning of October, Terrafugia will be speaking at the FAA Airports Division Central Region Conference in Overland Park, KS. The next show where you can meet the Terrafugia team will be the Sport Aviation Expo, held in Sebring, FL, January 17-20, 2008.Just as a reminder, here are some quick specs on the Transition:
Seats: 2, side-by-side.If the idea of landing at the local patch, sucking in your wings and driving off the field to your garage sounds appealing (of COURSE it does...), then go here and find out how little money it takes to get in line for this wonderful creation.
GTOW: 1320 lbs.
Useful Load: 550 lbs.
Engine: 100 hp Rotax 912 S (four-stroke)
Cruise Speed (75% power): 100 kts/115 mph
Fuel Consumption (75% power): 4.5 gph
Range: 400 nm (460 mi, 740 km)
Takeoff Distance over 50 ft obstacle: 1,700 ft (520 m)
Fuel: Super-unleaded autogas or 100LL
And, for the record, I am stating officially that I predict this project will succeed with certification and Team Terrafugia will meet its delivery dates as advertised. I have met these people, and using a term their generation can fully understand...they rock!