Just Wait Until Cars Have Wings -- Next Year

A Massachusetts company hopes to start delivering its flying car to customers by late 2011.

Terrafugia Inc., founded about five years ago by MIT graduates, got a key go-ahead last month when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a special weight limit exemption to the company for the flying car, or roadable aircraft, called the Transition.

With that FAA clearance under the its belt, the company said it is on track to deliver the first Transition crafts to customers late next year.

The Transition vehicle, which is designed with foldable wings, successfully completed its first flight on March 5, 2009, after six months of road testing.

"To actually have it fly is a dream come true," said Richard Gersh, a vice president at Terrafugia, at the time. "I'm not sure it's up there with the Wright brothers but it's awfully close."

The two-seater vehicle fits into the light sport aircraft category and is expected to be priced at about $148,000. People will need a sport pilot certificate to fly the Transition, which is designed to take off and land at small, local airports and to drive on virtually any road.

The vehicle, which runs on unleaded gasoline, can travel up to 450 miles and can fly at 115 mph. It's also designed to fit into a typical household garage.

Company executives said during a meeting with Massachusetts legislators earlier this year that Terrafugia hopes to create "hundreds" of new manufacturing jobs as production of the Transition nears. (See also "Car Tech: Coolest New Systems on Four Wheels.")

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

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