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World's first flying car takes test flights

Arguably the world's first flying car took its first test flight sometime this month, a milestone in a project started four years ago by MIT students. The winged car taxied down a runway in NY, took off, flew for 37 seconds.

entertainment Updated: Mar 26, 2009 15:46 IST

Arguably the world's first flying car took its first test flight sometime this month, a milestone in a project started four years ago by MIT students.

At 7:40 am on March 5, the winged car taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, NY, took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway - a manoeuvre it would repeat about a half dozen times over the next two days.

In the coming months the company, a Woburn-based startup called Terrafugia, will test the plane in a series of ever-longer flights and a variety of manoeuvres to learn about its handling characteristics.

Aviation enthusiasts have spent nearly a century pursuing the dream of a flying car, but the broader public has tended to view the idea as something of a novelty.

Still, such a vehicle could have more practical appeal now that the Federal Aviation Administration has created a new class of plane - Light Sport Aircraft - and a new licence category just for pilots of such craft, including Terrafugia's two-seater Transition.

The "sport pilot" licence required to fly the Transition takes only about 20 hours of training time, about half that required to earn a regular pilot's licence.

The street-legal Transition is powered on land and in the air by a recently developed 100 hp Rotax engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline.

As a plane, its 20-gallon tank gives it a 450-mile range with a 184 kmph cruising speed. The pilot can switch from one mode to the other from the driver's seat, simultaneously folding up the wings and shifting the engine power from the rear-mounted propeller to the front wheels in about 30 seconds, said an MIT release.