The FAA says the Terrafugia Transition can now be called a light sport aircraft despite the fact that its maximum weight is 370 pounds greater than the standard LSA 1,430-pound limit. Terrafugia petitioned the agency for the exemption to use the LSA label for a street-legal version of the aircraft back in 2014. Although the Transition can be flown like a traditional two-place aircraft, the pilot can also fold its wings after landing to allow it to operate over the same roads as any automobile.
Terrafugia told the FAA the weight-limit increase was needed to accommodate structures and systems directly related to the vehicle’s unique safety features. They allow the Transition to incorporate automotive occupant protection safety features, including a safety cage, energy-absorbing crumple zones, and cabin features commonplace in today’s automobiles but unavailable in most general aviation aircraft.
To support its petition, Terrafugia engineers quantified the Transition’s potential safety benefits by citing a company analysis that compared traditional LSA airplane accidents to what might be experienced in the Terrafugia. The company said the results showed that flying a Transition instead of the accident airplane, could have reduced the severity of injuries in the vast majority of accidents and also could have more than halved the number of fatalities. In addition to its automotive safety features, the Transition’s ability to land and drive in bad weather could have helped to avoid nearly half of the accidents studied.