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Vehicle/aircraft hybrid is poised to reach new heights

It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's a flying car! Move over hot rods and luxury sport utility vehicles. The new must-have auto may soon be the one that can take flight.

At the end of the film "Back to the Future," Doc returns to Marty's home to warn him that something happens to Marty's kids in the future. They enter the suped-up Delorean, and Marty says, "Doc, you better back up. We don't have enough road to get up to 88." Doc replies, "Roads? Where we're going we don't need any roads." The car then hovers off the ground and blasts into the sky.

People have long dreamed about a car that can transition into flight. It may cut down on commuting times or alleviate traffic jams. And let's face it, a flying car might be pretty fun to operate. Now those dreams are getting closer to reality.

The production prototype of the Transition® Street-Legal Airplane completed its successful first flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, NY on March 23, 2012. The same vehicle has also successfully conducted initial drive and conversion testing, demonstrating the Transition's capability to provide unmatched freedom, flexibility and fun in personal aviation.

Developed by Terrafugia, Inc., a growing aerospace company founded by pilots and engineers from MIT and supported by a world-class network of advisors and private investors, the Transition is a two-seat personal aircraft capable of driving on roads and highways, parking in a single car garage, and flying with unleaded automotive fuel. The prototype was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April 2012. At a price tag of $279,000, it's unlikely the skies will be crowded with them anytime soon, but the arrival of a car/plane hybrid shows promise for future travel.

"The successful first flight of this Production Prototype Transition® marks a critical move toward initial production and first delivery," said Terrafugia COO Anna Mracek Dietrich. The company will continue its testing program in preparation for first delivery, which includes meeting stringent automotive crash tests to meet federal standards. The aircraft is expected to be sold within the next year.

The Transition's first flight reached an altitude of 1,400 feet above the ground and lasted eight minutes while staying in the vicinity of Plattsburgh International Airport. Six phases of flight testing are planned to continue development and demonstrate compliance to the Light Sport Aircraft standards.

The government has already allowed the use of special tires and glass on the craft that are lighter than normal automotive tires to make it easier for the vehicle to fly. It can travel 70 miles per hour on the road and 115 in the air. Terrafugia says an owner would need to pass a test and complete 20 hours of flying time to be able to fly the Transition.

Taking to the skies in personal aircraft could revolutionize how people travel. More information is available at