This looks pretty cool!
Forget Flying Cars. Meet the Driveable Plane
For years, heavy handed regulations have strangled the light aircraft industry. Now that these have been removed and new classifications of plane / pilot licensing have been created, the atmosphere has been set to encourage innovation to soaring (bad puns intended).
One of the results is the above. Details below:
Business 2.0 Magazine) — [snip]… The 29-year-old aeronautics Ph.D. candidate at MIT is also CEO of Terrafugia (from the Latin for "escape the earth"), a Somerville, Mass., startup building the Transition, which Dietrich says is not so much a flying car as a "roadable aircraft." That is, a two-seater plane with fold-up wings that you drive home at the end of your flight.
The design won Dietrich the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize in February. But Terrafugia is no dorm startup: The company is in talks to raise $2 million to $3 million and has hired two McDonnell-Douglas veterans in its quest to build a drivable prototype by 2008.
They aim to get the first Transitions to market by the following year, at a retail price of $148,000. The plane is tailor-made, Dietrich says, for the neglected "short-hop market" of 100- to 500-mile jaunts – a market that’s only going to grow as airlines abandon low-margin short routes.
In terms of aircraft, this is dirt cheap, and the short hop market is a pain in the butt if you are relying on scheduled runs.
With licensing fees and training times both half those for regular aircraft, the FAA projects an influx of as many as 15,000 new light sport pilots by 2009.
"The market is ready for a new kind of aircraft," says Dick Knapinski, spokesman for the nonprofit Experimental Aircraft Association.
And as they always say in manufacturing, volume breeds lower prices.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t red-tape obstacles: "Can you take it out off a flat stretch of road," Knapinski asks, "or do you have to take off at an airport?"
But Dietrich is undeterred. He’s getting his first round of funding from angel investors who are also pilots. "They have firsthand knowledge of the obstacles that this vehicle would overcome," he says.
There have been experimental planes before that have been on the market, but none ever really became the hit that the designers wanted – more curiousity than anything else. Hope this one goes further….