“Roadable aircraft” update: Terrafugia Transition in flight/drive testing phase

With a fresh infusion of cash and ongoing flight and road testing, the Terrafugia Transition roadable airplane/flying car is going through design refinement and is closer to federal certification.


Conceived by MIT-trained engineers in 2006 and built with composites, the Terrafugia (Woburn, Mass.) Transition flying car continues its journey toward certification and commercial launch. The company announced in January a cash infusion ($2.7 million from a Series D1 investment round) and successfully completed its contribution to Phase II of the DARPA Transformer (TX) program with the delivery of three-quarter scale hardware and test data. DARPA TX is a five-year, three-phase flying-car project coordinated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the U.S. military. Concurrently, Terrafugia COO Anna Mracek Dietrich has been active as an industry representative on the U.S. Federal Aviation Admin. (FAA) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), which is doing analysis and providing recommendations for a revamp of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 23. Dietrich’s participation reportedly has given the company tremendous insight into the evolution of the light-aircraft certification process.

CEO and chief technology officer Carl Dietrich reports that flight and drive testing is underway to evaluate the durability of the Transition airframe in a real-world environment. Necessary modifications are being made on the current prototype. “Once the engineering team is satisfied that the majority of the field issues have been identified from this prototype,” he notes, “we will evaluate if the number and magnitude of potential modifications warrant the construction of another prototype prior to final compliance testing for certification.”

Although engineers are pleased with the Transition’s flying and driving characteristics, the company says recent flight testing resulted in some aerodynamic improvements. The most substantial was an extension of the leading-edge strake at the root of the wing to reduce the magnitude of wing/fuselage interference drag. A secondary benefit of this modification is stiffening of the doors.

The Transition must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. (NHTSA) as part of the automotive certification process. Drive testing recently moved from the corporate parking lot to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Says Carl Dietrich, “The Terrafugia team is committed to delivering the best possible street-legal airplane to our loyal customers.”