Reflections on Oshkosh: Transition®, TF-X™, and the Terrafugia Vision

Last week at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Terrafugia released a brand new animation depicting the type of operations we envision making possible with TF-X™. Check out the video here.

Our announcement has been picked up by several dozen media outlets, including Wired, the Daily Mail, and Gizmag, and our video has garnered almost a million hits so far. It’s created a tidal wave of new interest in Terrafugia.

This renewed interest is very exciting to see, but it has also highlighted one of Terrafugia’s greatest challenges: communicating both a realistic vision for what is technologically achievable in the “flying car” space, while simultaneously setting realistic expectations for how long it will take to achieve that vision due to the numerous systemic obstacles we need to overcome.

In a world where we are used to new smart phones and car models coming out every year, the general public is not familiar with the much longer development times associated with aircraft — especially new types of aircraft like Transition® and TF-X™. So while it is thrilling to see people get excited, they are often immediately disappointed when they learn of our most optimistic TF-X™ timeline: 8 years to production.

Transition® is much closer to rolling out the door.

While the media is drawn to TF-X™, and people tend to share TF-X™ news and videos more than the videos we have released about Transition®, most of Terrafugia’s efforts today are focused on getting Transition® to market. We have made tremendous progress in developing Transition®, working both on the regulatory and engineering sides to bring to market the world’s first practical flying car. Admittedly, the phase of the Transition® program we are in right now is not as “sexy” as the recent video of our vision for the future, TF-X™. Right now, we are finalizing drawings and designs of molds, tools, and jigs for production of Transition® and working to secure a final exemption from the FAA. This is incredibly time consuming and important work, and it is through these consistent efforts that we aim to bring Transition® to market within the next two years.

The work that is being done on TF-X™ is a small fraction of the work that is happening at Terrafugia at this time.

This distribution of resources does not reflect a lack of commitment to TF-X™, rather it is an acknowledgement of the reality of the stage of the program: early conceptual design and R&D. Until a formal certification basis is established with the FAA for TF-X™, neither the scope of the certification program nor the formal engineering requirements can be fully defined. During this R&D phase, it would not be a good use of resources to focus a significant fraction of the company on TF-X™, because there are many more uncertainties relating to markets and the certification process than there are with Transition®. Indeed, producing and delivering Transition® will put the company in a much stronger place to secure the resources we need to complete the development of TF-X™, and will be the foundation upon which we build the groundwork for the eventual development of TF-X™. The goal of the R&D phase of TF-X is to determine what the certification basis of the product will be. Only after Transition® is in production and the TF-X™ certification basis is determined will the bulk of Terrafugia’s development team will start to shift to TF-X™ work. Until then, the Transition® program is the top priority for most of the company.

It is thrilling to see the Terrafugia team work tirelessly to develop Transition® into an amazing product, and I look forward to the day not too far from now when I will have the opportunity to hand the keys to our first customer.

If you’d like to learn more about Transition®, check out the images available here, visit our YouTube channel here, or sign up for our email newsletter below.

Author: Carl Dietrich