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March 25, 2012

Flying car road tested at Lawrence Municipal Airport


A car that turns into an airplane? An airplane that turns into a car?

Perhaps the stuff of fantasy. Until now.

The Woburn-based firm Terrafugia, (Latin for "escape the earth") is turning fantasy into reality with its Transitional Roadable Aircraft.

And, Lawrence Municipal Airport had a role in the development of the aircraft, called the "Transition."

The firm has been conducting tests on the Transition at Lawrence Municipal Airport.

"We've been doing high-speed taxi testing," said Cliff Allen, a veteran pilot and Terrafugia's vice president for sales.

The Transition got up to 90 mph, minus its folding wings, he said.

"We took the wings off it, we didn't want it to fly," Allen said.

He said taxi and ground testing are nearing an end, and actual flight testing is expected to begin within the next two months in upstate New York.

Some later flight testing may be done at Lawrence Airport, he said.

"We'll start pretty rigorous flight testing that should take us through the summer into next fall," Allen said. "And if all goes according to plan, the company should be able to start shipping production models early next year."

The prototype, with its rear-mounted pusher propellor will make its debut at the 2012 New York International Auto Show April 6 through 15 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

"One of the reasons for going to the New York International Auto Show is to put it in front of an audience and gauge the interest," Allen said.

"We are marketing it as an airplane. It is an airplane that is street legal," Allen said.

The two-seater has a maximum airspeed of 120 knots and has a price tag of $279,000.

It has a maximum range of 450 air miles and a range of 600 miles at 35 miles per gallon, when used as an automobile.

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