Friday, 10 May 2013
Terrafugia, the Woburn, MA, developing the Transition flying car, has plans for a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) sibling. The proposed Terrafugia TF-X would be a tilt-rotor flying machine that would take off and land like a helicopter. Instead of a runway, the TF-X could use a helipad or parking lot. That’s important because Terrafugia’s devices aren’t so much flying cars as roadable aircraft that take you from the airport to your destination a few miles away. The closer you land to your destination, the better. Don’t sell your Cessna 400 just yet. The TF-X is a decade away and will likely cost on the high side of a half-million dollars. Maybe a million.
The Terrafugia TF-X is a small fuselage with four road wheels on the bottom, along with stubby wings with electrically driven rotors that point vertically for liftoff, then rotate horizontally for level flight. The transition from vertical to horizontal flight is tricky in a VTOL plane. Terrafugia says the TF-X electronics manage that, as well as the rest of the flight. In other words, the pilot decides when to lift off — and how high — before starting to fly horizontally, and the plane actually manages those orders. That’s not unusual; some military aircraft wouldn’t fly without controlling stability.
Propulsion appears to be a gas turbine for horizontal flight and hybrid electric for ground travel. For liftoff and landing, the rotors would be turned electrically via a generator and battery storage, as would the road wheels.