Company Continuing Flight Testing Of Its 'Transition' Roadable Aircraft
Terrafugia reached several milestones during the past year, and the company says it made considerable progress towards delivering a street-legal roadable aircraft to potential buyers. However, the company says it is still unable to project when the aircraft may be certified and production will begin.
On Saturday, October 27, 2012, the Transition was demonstrated to 300 employees, customers, investors, FAA and other government personnel at Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWM) in Lawrence, MA. Chief Test Pilot Phil Meteer put the vehicle through its paces, demonstrating the Transition driving, converting and flying -- and then converting and driving again.
Also in 2012, Terrafugia CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich closed a $2.7 million Series D1 investment round, and Terrafugia successfully completed its contribution to Phase II of the DARPA TX program with the delivery of three-quarter scale hardware and test data. In the meantime, Terrafugia COO Anna Mracek Dietrich has been actively participating as an industry representative on the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to analyze and provide recommendations for the revamp of FAR Part 23 which has given the company tremendous insight into the evolution of the light aircraft certification process. These new developments have led Terrafugia to initiate a new internal program which we look forward to announcing at the appropriate time.
In a message sent to those on its mailing list, Terrafugia said they are actively flight testing and drive testing to evaluate the durability of the Transition airframe in real-world environments. Any issues that are discovered in this phase of testing are either noted as items for evaluation and potential redesign on the next vehicle or are modified in place on the current prototype. Once the engineering team is satisfied that the majority of the field issues have been identified from this prototype, we will evaluate if the number and magnitude of potential modifications warrant the construction of another prototype prior to final compliance testing for certification.
"Although the team is very pleased with the vehicle's flying and driving characteristics, there is always room for improvement," the company said in the newsletter. "Recent flight testing has resulted in some aerodynamic improvements to the Transition. The most substantial modification has been the extension of the leading edge strake at the root of the wing. The primary purpose of this modification is to reduce the magnitude of the wing-fuselage interference drag. A secondary benefit of this modification has been stiffening of the doors. The team has also received positive feedback on the resulting aesthetic improvement."
The Transition must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as part of the automotive certification process. Drive testing has moved from our corporate parking lot to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Recent testing has determined that the Transition is capable of stopping from a speed of 60 miles per hour in a distance of only 110 feet on dry pavement. This remarkable braking performance is due to a combination of the Transition's powerful all-wheel disc brakes, its low weight, and its tires which provide excellent grip. Our test drivers have been impressed with the Transition's ground performance. "It handles really well - especially considering it's an airplane; it's fun to drive!" says Vice President of Engineering, Andrew Heafitz.
The company has not set a specific date for certification and initial production at this time, despite what it says is significant progress. "To use a metaphor, we are not at the finish line, but we can see it from here," the newsletter said. Mracek Dietrich said "We are confident that production is on the horizon, but the final schedule will be substantially informed by the necessary actions that result from the ongoing testing program." The current endurance testing must be completed to determine if an additional design refinement cycle may be warranted prior to initial production.
The Transition order backlog surpassed the 100 customer mark and now represents approximately $30 million of product. The company says that they know that there is a great deal of interest in the product on the part of the aviation media, the general media, and the public ... evidence by more than 5 million views of the company's videos on YouTube.
(Top images provided by Terrafugia. Last image from file)