Flying Car Receives Special Design Exemptions

Terrafugia’s Transition gets a break from the DOT.

Terrafugia Flying Car

Terrafugia Flying Car

The Terrafugia Flying CarTerrafugia

The flying car that created a buzz when it was unveiled at Oshkosh three years ago has just received a variety of special exemptions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The vehicle, known as the Transition Roadable Aircraft, is a dual-purpose model intended for travel both in the air and on the road. Built with a compact design, foldable wings and the ability to reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour on the ground, the vehicle’s proponents hope it will become the world’s first viable airplane with road capabilities, bridging what the company claims are travel delays frequently encountered by pilots.

But the recent design exemptions granted the Transition have raised questions among some in the industry about its safety profile as a road vehicle. Those exemptions include relief from the requirements for laminated automotive safety glass, traditional tires, electronic stability control systems and advanced air bags.

According to Terrafugia, the small start-up company behind the Transition, the traditional NHTSA requirements for these design elements would add significant weight to the vehicle, making it difficult to meet LSA requirements. The Transition has already been granted an increased takeoff weight exemption of 1,430 pounds by the FAA so that it can fit into the LSA category, which is traditionally limited to aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds.

Terrafugia was granted the recent exemptions from the NHTSA on the basis that compliance with the standard requirements would cause undue financial hardship on the small company, which was founded by a small group of MIT graduates in 2006.

The company’s Transition first took to the air and the roads for testing in March 2009. To date, Terrafugia has received approximately 100 refundable deposits for the flying car. Last month, Terrafugia announced a projected delivery delay for its multi-purpose vehicle, noting “production design challenges and problems with third party suppliers.”

While an exact price has not yet been set, Terrafugia says its flying car will likely cost around $250,000.