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The world's first aircraft to drive on road, the Terrafugia Transition, successfully completed its first flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, New York recently.

The Transition lifted smoothly off the runway in the early morning light on March 5. The first flight was conducted within the runway environment and demonstrated the aircraft's stability and controllability. After 37 seconds, the pilot executed a smooth landing and taxied safely to a full stop.

Earlier Emirates Business had reported how buying the $194,000 (Dh712,562) Transition makes good economic and business sense for flying enthusiasts. By giving pilots a convenient ground transportation option, the Transition reduces the cost, hassle and weather sensitivity of personal aviation.

The report had also talked about how it also increases safety by incorporating automotive crash structures and allowing pilots to drive under bad weather.

The flight comes after six months of drive testing and taxi testing. Following a successful full vehicle inspection, flight-testing continued with six additional flights proving out the vehicle's aerodynamics and smooth handling characteristics.

Terrafugia, the company that made this aircraft was founded by award-winning MIT-trained aeronautical engineers and MBAs with a mission to provide innovative solutions to the challenges facing personal aviation.

Anna Mracek Dietrich, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Terrafugia, told Emirates Business: "This flight is a symbol of a new freedom in aviation. It's what enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918. In fact, Terrafugia was incorporated in 2006 for the purpose of developing the Transition. The approach that was taken by Terrafugia was to design a vehicle for pilots that brought additional ground capability to an airplane instead of attempting to make a car fly.

"We are all quite happy to have safely and successfully achieved this historic milestone. It was a gorgeous flight."

The Transition's unique design allows it to fold its wings and drive on any surface road with a modern personal airplane platform.

Once at the airport, the wings extend and the aircraft is ready for take-off. Both folding and extending the wings is done from inside the cockpit.

This is how it is done. After landing, the pilot activates the electro-mechanical wing folding mechanism from inside the cockpit. The wings fold, once at the root and once at the mid-span, and are stowed vertically on the sides of the vehicle in less than 30 seconds. Simultaneously, the engine power is directed to the front wheels with a continuously variable transmission.

Before flying, the pilot extends the wings and performs a standard preflight. The engine power is directed to the propeller for flight through a carbon fibre drive shaft.

The Transition is powered by a certified aircraft engine that runs on unleaded automotive gasoline. Perfect for trips between 150 and 800 kilometres.

The Transition can take off or land at any public use general aviation airport with at least 2,500 feet of runway.

The Transition was flown by Colonel Phil Meteer, USAFR (Ret). Meteer said: "The first flight was remarkably unremarkable. I have flown several thousand hours in everything from Piper Cubs to F-16s and the Transition flew like a really nice airplane."

Having ground mobility and the ability to fly, the vehicle provides new options for travel.

If bad weather is encountered en route, the pilot can land and drive without worrying about ground transportation or having to return to pick up his plane. At the destination airport, the pilot can fold the wings and drive off the airfield without having to move bags or arrange for additional transportation.

Talking about what the news of the flight has done for their business, Dietrich said: "The order book has grown ever since this happened and we are still receiving a lot of interest following the announcement of first flight.

"However, while we have had some interest from the Middle East, we do not yet have any confirmed reservations from that part of the world. Now that the concept has been proven, the Terrafugia team will begin the process of adapting the lessons learned from this vehicle to the design the next prototype."
Nick: JirkaPraha, 27.3.2009 12:45:47
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