It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…

by Amy Marcott on March 19, 2009 · 15 comments

in Design, Engineering, In the News, Research, Transportation

A Transition.  And in the crisp, early-morning air on March 5th, it made its first flight over a long runway at the Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, looking like a cross between a VW bug and a puddle jumper.

Transition, Photo: Terrafugia

Transition, Photo: Terrafugia

Transition, the “roadable aircraft,” was designed by MIT alum Carl Dietrich’s company, Terrafugia. The first flight lasted 37 seconds and covered about 3000 feet, according to a press release. Retired Air Force colonel Phil Meteer piloted the plane.

“It was apparent to me from the moment of takeoff that I had control of a very stable aircraft,” Meteer reportedly said at a March 18th press conference. “I had a test plan…and after a minute I realized my daughter could do this, it was fun, anyone could do it.”

Delivery of the first $194,000 vehicle is scheduled for 2011, however 40 people have already put down $10,000 deposits to hold their place.

Transition by the numbers:

  • MPH on road: 65
  • MPH in air: 115
  • MPG: 30
  • Amount of time it takes for Tranisition to convert from flight to road configurations: 30 seconds
  • Number of MIT degrees obtained by Terrafugia founder, Carl Dietrich: 3*

*’99, SM ’03, PhD ’07—all degrees are in Aero & Astro


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

ezra March 25, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Kudos on getting this thing off the ground, but how are we going to manage the traffic if these things become as common as cars today? It is vastly more complex to try to manage that sort of a system given that you add in the parameter of vertical movement (height off the ground), not just horizontal movement like a car. We are still pretty far away from anything like a mesh network or self guided cars to digitally control cars on the ground even. Air traffic control is so complex that people have to train for years and then they can only work 30 minutes at a time.

I shudder to think of the drunk driving problems. What’s the use case scenario for this anyway? How much gas do they guzzle in this time of energy crisis and climate change? I thought the flying car was never built not because it was so technologically difficult but because it was just a bad idea. But I suppose the technology of the future and other genius engineers with time on their hands will always solve the problems created by the latest technology, right?


Walker Sloan March 26, 2009 at 10:46 am

I had heard that the original VW Bug was a naive but honest attempt at aerodynamics. Here it is!


Bill Neuberg March 26, 2009 at 10:47 am

Don’t think of this as a car that flies, but as an airplane that you can park at home and drive to the airport.

Also, think of it as an experimental aircraft. See

Also, don’t try to make me play the accordian on the highway. I’ll fiddle. The overtaken vessle, vehicle, or aircraft has the right of way.


Dave March 26, 2009 at 11:27 am


The MPG was stated in the article. Your other questions are answered on the company’s website, which was referenced in the article.

Informed discussion is a wonderful thing. Try it some time.


Jim Peak March 26, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Man, we must have caught Ezra on a bad day.

That kind of enthusiasm could sink a battleship.

Amazing, you foks- VERY COOL!


Flyboy Engineer March 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm

The video shows the machine flying in ground effect at a high angle of attack. There are plenty of accident reports in which over loaded aircraft became air borne in ground effect but were unable to climb out of it before encountering the airport boundary…

Still, it’s an accomplishment to get it flying in ground effect. But, I’ll wait to get excited about it when it flys typical flight maneuvers: climbs, turns, straight and level at altitude, descents, stalls & stall recoveries. I would also be keen to see it in the roadable configuration and transition to the flight configuration.


Homo erectus April 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Wonderful tool for emergency attention people (doctors,public utilities service crews, etc). They must strive to get it operative even more handy.


Javier Serrano April 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

Is grate, congratulations. Is an important first step. In few years I would love to work about that, perhaps with another kind of energy, and the most important, the car must be cheap.


Don Neuberg May 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

It’s a bird, it’s a car, uh it’s a plane! Well whatever it is, it’s interesting!


article king November 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm

thanks for this post. It helped me a lot. Btw How you get ideas for such posts. sorry if it’s out of topic.


Liv November 17, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for the feedback! We get our ideas from lots of different places: the MIT news office, Google alerts, MIT department Web sites, and contacts around campus.


Honda December 16, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Congratulations , what an awesome machine!


shaan May 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

it”s too cool


Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: