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Flying Car Includes Electromagnetic Wing Locks

Having demonstrated the world's first automatic folding wing, Terrafugia looks to complete a prototype of its Transition roadworthy aircraft within a year. Target selling price is under $150,000.

Published: 10-Oct-2007

In 1918, long before George Jetson commuted to Spacely Space Sprockets, the U.S. Patent Office issued Felix Longobardi the first patent for a vehicle capable of both driving on roads and flying through the air. But given all the impractical prototypes built since Longobardi's original whimsy, history suggests that any vehicle design combining these two modes of transport will be a commercial failure: aero-auto hybrids always seem to result in a compromise that serves both functions poorly.

Now a group of MIT alums believe that they are on their way toward overcoming this problem. Founded in 2006 and called Terrafugia, their startup, based in Woburn, MA, recently produced the first automated folding wing for a light sport aircraft. (A light sport aircraft is a type of airplane deemed by the Federal Aviation Administration to be easier to fly and hence more accessible than regular private planes.) The wing, however, is just the first step toward an aero-auto hybrid that the company plans to call the Transition.

This summer, the group demonstrated its folding wing at the annual AirVenture aviation festival in Oshkosh, WI. With more than 650,000 attendees, the festival is the most important event in experimental-aircraft aviation.

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