2:32pm

Tue April 3, 2012
The Two-Way

After Two Test Flights, The Race Toward A Flying Car Is On

You know the flying car the future promised us? Two different companies — one in the United States and one in Netherlands — announced yesterday that they had just completed first flights in two vehicles that could become the first commercially available flying cars.

From the news, we know two things: A flying car may be closer than you think and a vehicle like that will cost you quite a bit of money.

Terrafugia, the American company, said that its prototype "Transition Street-Legal Airplane" completed its maiden flight on March 23 from the Plattsburgh, New York.

In a press release, the company called the first flight "a milestone."

The car looks like a tiny jet with folded wings. But it won't get you out of a traffic jam because it needs a runway to take off. The makers envision that owners of the $279,000 car will fly on long trips and drive on city trips.

In its story, today, the AP spoke to Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst who owns R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, New York. Mann told the AP that Terrafugia is closer than anyone to making flying cars a reality. The AP reports:

"The government has already granted the company's request to use special tires and glass that are lighter than normal automotive ones, to make it easier for the vehicle to fly. The government has also temporarily exempted the Transition from the requirement to equip vehicles with electronic stability control, which would add about six pounds (2.72 kilograms) to the vehicle. The Transition is currently going through a battery of automotive crash tests to make sure it meets federal safety standards.

"Mann said Terrafugia was helped by the Federal Aviation Administration's decision five years ago to create a separate set of standards for light sport aircraft. The standards govern the size and speed of the plane and licensing requirements for pilots, which are less restrictive than requirements for pilots of larger planes. Terrafugia says an owner would need to pass a test and complete 20 hours of flying time to be able to fly the Transition, a relatively low hurdle for pilots."

The Transition's Dutch competitor, the Personal Air and Land Vehicle (PAL-V), is very different. In a press release, the company said it flies like a helicopter and on the road "it drives like a sports car."

The cool part is that it's designed to take flight from existing roads and air strips.

Both companies have released videos of the first flights.

Here's the Transition:

And here's the PAL-V:

The Transition will be on display during the New York Auto show this week.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.