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Toyota Only the Latest to Dream of Launching a Flying Car

Patent application shows unique approach to fold-away wings.

by on Sep.11, 2015

A patent application showing Toyota's "aerocar" concept with its foldaway wings.

Wouldn’t it be great to fly home after a long day’s work – quite literally taking to the air rather than getting stuck in a traffic jam? That’s a fantasy nearly as old as the auto industry itself, and now, it seems, Japanese giant Toyota Motor Co. may be working up plans to develop a flying automobile, at least according to a recent patent filing.

How serious Toyota is about building a flying car the company isn’t saying, but it wouldn’t be nearly the first to give the idea a try. Industry pioneer Henry Ford was an early proponent, abandoning the idea of a flying version of his Model T only after the fatal crash of a friend and chief co-pilot. Meanwhile, a group of MIT grads has already begun testing their own flying car concept even as a Defense Department research group explores the idea of sending soldiers into battle on a flying motorcycle.

The Last Word!

Forget Blade Runner, or the Jetsons, for that matter. Few expect to see a world in which commuters routinely take to the air anytime soon. But proponents believe that at least some well-heeled motorists could leapfrog traffic in the not-too-distant future.

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Terrafugia Transition Flies into NY Auto Show

After getting federal OK, first flying car taking orders.

by on Apr.06, 2012

The Terrafugia Transition takes wing on its maiden flight last month.

It’s been a dream that countless visionaries and entrepreneurs have failed to achieve. But five former graduate students from MIT are about to take wing with the world’s first flying car.  Make that the first to pass muster and win the necessary approval of government regulators.

That’s been no easy task for Massachusetts-based Terrafugia which had to deal with a complex mix of occasionally conflicting automotive and aircraft regulations.  But their Transition 2-seater, which took its maiden flight two weeks ago, is ready to go into production, with sales set to begin about a year from now.

The Last Word!

The company claims it has already taken 100 advance orders – but it’s looking to line up more with a display at the 2012 New York Auto Show, where it is competing for attention alongside more conventional automobiles, like the new Toyota Avalon and the reborn SRT Viper.

“Don’t think of it as a car that flies,” suggested Carl Dietrich, one of the MIT students who is now serving as Terrafugia’s CEO. “Think of it as a plane that drives.”

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SpaceShipOne’s Burt Rutan Tries His Hand at a Flying Car

Legendary designer reveals the gas-electric-powered BiPod.

by on Jul.27, 2011

Burt Rutan's final project is the Model 367 BiPod.

If there’s one thing Burt Rutan is good at it’s turning dreams into reality.  His Voyager was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.  And his suborbital SpaceShipOne not only claimed the $10 million Ansari X-Prize but is helping in motion the dream of private space flight.  So, who better to transform the long-running fantasy of the flying car into something real?

With the unveiling of his Model 367 BiPod, Rutan and his firm Scalred Composites become the latest in a series of visionaries – dating back to at least Henry Ford – hoping to find a functional way to combine a car with an airplane.

It isn’t quite George Jetson’s briefcase aerocar.  The BiPod uses an unusual design with, as the name suggests, a twin, pod-like fuselage which not only provides two cockpits but protected storage for the wings and tail surfaces while operating on the ground.  The right pod handles airborne duties, the left takes control on the ground.

The Inside Story!

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the BiPod is its source of power.  Rutan – who developed the concept before retiring last April – has always been a fan of light and energy-efficient designs.  He’s been experimenting with personal electric aircraft for more than a decade.  And with the Model 367 he has adopted an extended-range electric system that is quite similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt.

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Jetsons’ Flying Car Closer to Reality

Terrafugia Transition flying car could be roadworthy – and airborne – by 2012.

by on Jul.06, 2011

Come Josephine in my flying (and driving) machine, as the Terrafugia Transition comes closer to reality.

It’s been a fantasy for more than a century. Even Henry Ford hoped to find a way to get one of his early flivvers to fly, but after countless failures it may soon become a reality.

Federal regulators have approved a series of exemptions that could get the Terrafugia Transition off the drawing boards and into production as early as 2012.

Designers have equipped the car/plane hybrid with a variety of automotive safety features, including airbags, that typically aren’t offered by most private aircraft.  The challenge has been to overcome some automotive standards that don’t quite work when your car is sprouting wings.  So exemptions from certain rules, such as side-impact standards, had to be authorized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Your Workhorse News Source!

That challenge resolved, Woburn, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia plans to have at least one production prototypes on display later this month at the EAA AirVenture, the annual “fly-in” at Oshkosh, Wisconsin that draws pilots and flying fans from around the world.

“The vehicle will not be ready to fly” at the show, as originally promised, noted a statement from the start-up aircraft maker’s CEO Carl Dietrich.  “The first test flights would be expected in March of next year,” due to a number of other delays Terrafugia blames on its suppliers.

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