It’s been just under a year since Terrafugia, the Massachusetts-based company that is building a roadable aircraft — known popularly as a flying car — conducted its first flight.
Momentum from that flight continues, according to Richard Gersh, vice president.
The company flew the proof-of-concept vehicle last March, racking up 28 flights at Plattsburgh International Airport (PLB) in New York. “The flights were very successful and we learned a lot,” Gersh recalled while at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, last month.
While the flights certainly were a benefit to the engineering side of the house, the success of the test flights did wonders for boosting the credibility of both the aircraft and the company, he noted.
“The people who were skeptical about the idea of a roadable aircraft have pretty much gone away now,” he said.
One of the greatest challenges the company has faced is getting the public to embrace the concept of a roadable aircraft rather than a flying car. Another big challenge: Meeting Department of Transportation requirements for a ground vehicle, as well as the regulations imposed by the FAA to allow it to fit into the Light Sport Aircraft category.
Terrafugia was able to do that, said Gersh, noting that now the design team is refining the vehicle.
“It won’t look the same as the proof-of-concept model, but you will be able to tell that it is the corporate successor,” he said. “You will see that it is still a two-place, pusher propeller aircraft.”
An aircraft that can be kept in a garage, he added. “No more hangar or tie-down fees and the engine burns five gallons an hour of auto fuel,” he said.
The Terrafugia appeals to a wide audience, Gersh said, adding the company has more than 70 orders on the books.
“We have sold aircraft to retirees who want to travel around country,” he said. “We have taken deposits from businesspeople who travel and don’t want the hassle of having to rent a car. We have taken deposits from people who want the next ‘WOW’ vehicle. We have taken deposits from pilots who already own an aircraft and are looking for this as a replacement or as their second airplane.”
Terrafugia requires a $10,000 deposit, which is held in an escrow account. The money is refundable, minus a service fee.
First deliveries are expected to begin in late 2011.
For more information: Terrafugia.com.