Flying Car Moves Closer to Reality

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This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

You could fill the sky with all the ideas people have had for flying cars -- or what Carl Dietrich calls "flying-driving vehicles."

CARL DIETRICH: "Since the turn of the twentieth century, there have been many hundreds of published concepts for flying-driving vehicles. And some of them have actually been built and flown. But at this point the Transition is the closest to actually getting to the marketplace.”

Carl Dietrich heads a company in Massachusetts called Terrafugia.

CARL DIETRICH: "Terrafugia is developing the Transition street-legal airplane, which many people have characterized as the first practical flying car. And the Transition is designed to really be a general aviation airplane, like a Cessna or a Piper, a propeller-powered airplane that can fold up its wings, drive down the road and park in a single-car garage.”

He says the Transition Roadable Aircraft easily changes to a car.

CARL DIETRICH: "It takes about twenty seconds. It’s like putting the top down on a convertible, only instead of folding up your roof, we’re folding up our wings and we’re transferring power from a propeller to the wheels for driving on the ground.”

Development began in two thousand six, and the first road and flight tests took place in two thousand nine.

The Transition had to meet federal safety standards for cars and aircraft. Last year the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to let it weigh more than other light sport aircraft. But even fully loaded, says Mr. Dietrich, it still weighs about half as much as an average car.

The windows, for example, weigh less than traditional automotive safety glass. Terrafugia got permission for that last month from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Carl Dietrich says the aircraft can climb to more than three thousand meters. It can carry two people at speeds over one hundred sixty kilometers an hour in the air. And on the ground it can drive at highway speeds, around one hundred thirteen kilometers an hour.

The plane needs an airport for takeoffs and landings, but it uses automotive gasoline.

The company expects to complete the building process for its flying cars within the next few months. Then it will began an intensive year-long testing program. Terrafugia expects the Transition to reach market by the end of twenty-twelve, at a price of around two hundred fifty thousand dollars.

Carl Dietrich says nearly one hundred people have already signed up as buyers. He hopes to sell as many as a thousand a year in the near future.

CARL DIETRICH: "That will not have any appreciable or noticeable impact on the air traffic control infrastructure in the foreseeable future today. Now, twenty years down the road, who knows?"

And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. You can watch a flight test of the Transition at voaspecialenglish.com. And how do you feel about flying cars? Write to us at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.

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