Flying car by Terrafugia takes its first flight

New York – Terrafugia Inc, a company which spun off from MIT, has confirmed that its flying car, deemed a “roadable aircraft” and named Transition, has successfully completed a 37 second test flight. On March 5, 2009, at Plattsburgh International Airport in New York the vehicle took flight. It was piloted by Phil Meteer, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who is the company’s chief pilot.

Terrafugia’s Transition, good for a drive or a flight. Read more about its specs here.

A video of the test flight was aired during a press conference at the Museum of Science in Boston on Wednesday. Transition was displayed temporarily in the main hall of the museum.

Earlier this year, the company revealed they would be testing Transition. The flight has been desired for the past 18 months during construction and pre-flight testing. Between March 5th and March 7th Transition was flown six more times. The aircraft has been inspected and approved by the Federal Aviation agency.

Transition transitions from car to airplane and back again with wings that fold up.

The propeller-driven Transition is designed for use as a private aircraft. It is capable of traveling at speeds of up to 115 mph on flights which are 450 miles or less in distance, getting 30 miles to each gallon of gas. The purpose of the craft is to transport pilots once they have reached their destination. The craft also operates as a car with front wheel drive.

The company claims the suspension is designed to handle the potholes in Boston, and that the aircraft handles just as any other car when on the road, but utilizing standard flight controls when in flight. The aircraft has safety controls which are not found on some small aircraft including crumple zones, an emergency deployed parachute, and a roll bar.

Since 2006, Terrafugia has been working on the aircraft. It was put into production when the company’s co-founder and CEO Carl Dietrich, an MIT student at the time, won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize of $30,000 and was runner-up in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

The company is owned in part by Anna Mracek Dietrich, Carl Dietrich’s wife and one of the 2009 Mass High Tech Women to Watch, and vice president of engineering Samuel Schweighart. These three (and several other employees of the company) were members of the Rocket Team at MIT.

There is no word on when the company will begin phase two of their tests, which would involve the aircraft flying away from the landing strip. Tests will continue to be conducted over the next two years on the vehicle.