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Keeping up with the Jetsons
Carl Dietrich always dreamed of building a flying car. Instead, the pragmatic inventor ended up creating what he calls a roadable aircraft, a plane that folds up its wings on landing and takes to the highway. In 2010, after three years of development, his vehicle, the Transition, will be available to customers for $194,000 a pop.

Terrafugia, the Woburn, Mass. company behind the Transition, began as an extracurricular activity for Dietrich while he was completing his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. Dietrich, 31, designed the craft to park in a typical home garage when the wings fold up. It also runs on premium gasoline rather than aviation fuel.

Terrafugia plans to manufacture the Transition in-house for now, although the Dietrichs aren't opposed to partnering with a larger manufacturer in the future. Meanwhile, they're negotiating with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation to settle on a design that satisfies both aircraft and auto regulators. That doesn't even begin to address the substantial insurance challenges.

In the next five years, Dietrich hopes to sell a few hundred Transitions, mostly to wealthy private pilots and professionals who need to make short but regular flights. As FSB went to press, Terrafugia had gathered 40 deposits and its order backlog totaled more than $8 million. - Alec Foege

NEXT: Mile-high power

LAST UPDATE: Dec 04 2008 | 10:38 AM ET
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