A drive in the clouds: Flying cars could be in UK skies in five years
It's a concept that’s been around for decades but never really seems to get off the ground. But aviation experts are now saying a flying car could be in regular use in the UK within five years after a model was formally approved by U.S. authorities. The $250,000 (£155,000) Terrafugia Transition is a two-seater aircraft which has a top speed of 115mph, a range of 500 miles on a tank of fuel and requires just 20 hours training to fly.
Nice wheels: The Terrafugia Transition sits in the driveway of a house... but it will still need to be washed every Sunday
Pie in the sky: The idea of a flying car has finally got off the ground. Drivers will be able to lift off from almost any long straight road - traffic permitting
At the touch of a button it takes just 15 seconds for the wings to fold up automatically and the power to be re-routed from the propeller to the rear wheels. It can then be driven at up to 65mph and will comfortably fit in a standard size garage. ‘It’s like a little Transformer,’ said Terrafugia founder Carl Dietrich, referring to the children’s toys that were turned into a blockbuster movie franchise.
Although aimed primarily at buyers in the U.S. where there are plenty of airstrips and 600 ‘fly-in’ communities – Boeing 707 owner John Travolta being the best-known fan – more than 20 Britons have already declared an interest in the carbon-fibre vehicle. Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, who set a world record for a cross-Channel journey in an amphibious car, said: ‘What a great idea. I’d absolutely like to hear more and I’m going to look into it myself.’
On the road: At the touch of a button it takes just 15 seconds for the wings to fold up automatically
Gas guzzler: Drivers can fill up on high-octane unleaded auto petrol for the flying car
The U.S.’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration paved the way for the flying car to be rolled out after recently announcing exemptions to allow it on American roads. The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed such backing meant it would be relatively easy to be granted clearance by the European Safety Agency, based in Cologne. Spokesman Jonathan Nicholson said: ‘Safety standards are very similar between there and the U.S.’ The project, which began in 2006, appeared doomed as recently as last summer after expensive design changes costing £12 million were demanded.
High-fliers: More than 20 Britons have already declared an interest in the carbon-fibre vehicle
In the cockpit: The flying car has been tested by pilots and aviation experts believe the vehicle could be on the UK's roads in five years
These included introducing a stability control system and fitting tyres that could be used on public roads as well as runways. But it was saved when the U.S military awarded a £40 million contract to develop a flying Humvee. Two prototypes are now nearly finished and few changes are expected to be needed before the final model is ready to roll off the production line next year. One of the 100 customers who have already paid a $10,000 deposit is Sherry Grobstein, a software engineer from Massachusetts who currently flies a Cessna 150.
Bouncing back: The project, which began in 2006, appeared doomed as recently as last summer after expensive design changes costing £12 million were demanded
Getting off the ground: The Transition, pictured with a chase aircraft, soaring through the skies