Now That's a Hybrid

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It created a stir at AirVenture Oshkosh last summer, but until it actually lifted off, the Terrafugia 'Transition' really remained just another exciting promise. And in general aviation, we've had a bellyful of those. The Transition takes its name from what it proposes to do-switch quickly and easily from a car to an airplane and back again. And on March 5 it did just that. The Rotax-powered, light sport-eligible Transition is equipped with automatically folding wings that can curl up for 'road mode' in 30 seconds. All known previous attempts at building a flying car (or roadable airplane) have involved airplane parts that detached and had to be towed to the airport. True, the promise of the Transition (first deliveries in 2011 at a price of less than $200,000 a copy) still has a long way to go. Its first flights have been crow hops (albeit as high as 70 feet), not yet leaving the confines of an 11,000-foot runway at Plattsburgh International Airport in upstate New York. And observers have noted that the elevators appeared to be fully deflected to sustain flight. But even such modest success fills dreamers with optimism-who hasn't wished for the ability to steer away from a traffic jam, unfurl wings and soar away, above the madding crowd?