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SCIENCE

Flying Car

April 5th, 2012

Transition unfolding its wings. Photo credit with permission from: Terrafugia.com

The future is here.  Two different “flying cars” are nearly ready to hit the roads –and take to the skies– very soon!

The “Transition” will be featuerd at the New York International Auto Show  starting tomorrow. It looks like a small airplane with foldable wings.

You drive it as a car to the airport, where you unfold its wings, taxi down the runway, and you’re off. You can’t just push a button and fly over traffic jams you’re stuck in … yet.

The Transition costs $279,000 — over a quarter million dollars. Some fancy cars cost that much. And so do some homes!

Another company announced they successfully tested their flying car this week. This one’s called the PAL-V 1 (Personal Air and Land Vehicle). It’s from the Netherlands (in Europe) and it looks a little more like a helicopter with wheels.

Flying cars have been popular in our imaginations for a long time. There’s the flying car in Harry Potter and  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang . And, of course, the famous cartoon, The Jetsons, which actually inspired Transition’s maker who said he watched the cartoon growing up.

People have also been actually trying to make them for about a hundred years.

Part of the excitement about this now is that the technology and materials have gotten better. The rules also changed not too long ago making it easier to get a pilot’s license for small planes and to allow these “roadable aircraft” (which is more accurately what they’re called) on the roads and in the sky.

Jess Dixon in his flying automobile around 1942. Photo credit: Kobel Feature Photos via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Another reason is, it’s just not that easy. John Brown, who has a website about “flying cars” and their history, was quoted in Bloomberg Businessweek  saying, “We’ve sent man to the moon, kids in school can Skype from Europe to the U.S. and we can cure most diseases. Putting wheels on a light aircraft isn’t that hard, you would think, but it’s actually very hard.”

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