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Has the age of the flying car finally arrived?

The Terrafugia Transition is priced at US$279,000.The Terrafugia Transition is priced at US$279,000.NEW YORK, April 8 — Among the vehicles at this week’s New York International Auto Show (open to the public April 6-15) was one which drew a disproportionate amount of attention, as cars of its ilk often do.

The Terrafugia Transition picked up comment from media outlets around the world, not for its horsepower, its sleek design or its eco-friendly credentials, but for the fact that it can fly.

Armed with fold-down wings and a road-worthiness certificate, the Transition is powered by regular gasoline and has already been flown to a height of nearly 500m — hardly jumbo jet altitude, but certainly enough to zoom above the traffic jams for a while.

The Terrufugia would have been news enough for this week, but just days after confirmation of its successful first flights came news from the Netherlands of another flying car success.

Designers of the Pal-V also confirmed they have completed their first flight tests this week, using helicopter-inspired rotor blades instead of wings to lift the model off the ground and into the sky.

Helicopters are notoriously difficult to fly, but much of the effort is accomplished by computer trickery in the Pal-V’s case, leaving a vehicle which the makers say meets international rules for both driving and flying.

For decades, flying cars have been the things of dreams, finally a way to get rid of the congestion on the roads and a more economical way to cover middling distances.

Both models still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (the Pal-v US$300,000 and the Transition, US$279,000) and would still require private pilots’ licences, considerably limiting the potential market for such a model.

Alongside that, there are considerably practical restrictions, including a limited range of some 645km and the fact that the models won’t be allowed anywhere near congested airspace unless they’re flown by experienced pilots and have technical modifications, which somewhat curtails their use in or around the world’s major cities.

Still, for fans of flying cars, there is no doubt that this has been a good week — if you can spare the cash and have the motivation, it has never been easier to make the transition from the road to the sky. — AFP/Relaxnews

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