Skipping Past the “Helicopter in Every Garage” Phase

Jay Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald reports on a long-shot but interesting economic development project for Rhode Island…

Woburn’s Terrafugia Inc. hopes its futuristic car-plane business takes off in Massachusetts.
The maker of the hybrid car-plane contraption – which theoretically will both drive on roads and soar through the sky – plans to meet with officials from Gov. Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts Office of Business Development next month to try to work out an economic-incentives package to keep the company in the state.
But Massachusetts may face stiff competition in its attempt to retain Terrafugia’s future production operations.
A number of states – eager to attract a cutting-edge manufacturer requiring potentially hundreds of highly skilled assembly and mechanical workers – are actively wooing the young aviation company, founded by an MIT grad and his colleagues.
“I’d rather stay right here in Massachusetts,” said Carl Dietrich, co-founder and chief executive of Terrafugia, which hopes to start production of its two-seat car-planes sometime in 2009.
But “economics are economics,” said Dietrich, who adds he’s listening closely to economic-incentives pitches being made by such states as Rhode Island and Maine.
The two states, both long known for their boat-making sectors, see aviation as a logical way to attract and keep highly trained mechanics jobs, he said.
The name of Terrafugia‘s intended first car-plane is the “Transition”. According to Terrafugia’s FAQ, car-plane means exactly what it sounds like, i.e. something that might exist in a Sean Connery era James Bond movie…
Q: Will the Transition fit in my garage?
A: The Transition was designed to fit into a standard household garage. At 6.75 ft (2.1 m) high, 6.5 ft (2.0 m) wide, and 18.75’ (5.7 m) long, the Transition will fit anywhere that you could park a larger SUV such as a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator, and will fit inside a 7’ garage and a standard parking space.
Q: How fast will the Transition drive on the ground?
A: The Transition will be fully highway capable and able to easily reach the speed limit. A 100hp engine in a vehicle as light as the Transition will provide ample power on the ground.
Q: How fast will the Transition fly?
A: At 75% power, the anticipated cruising speed of the Transition is 100 kts (115 mph, 185 km/hr).
OK, well, maybe it’s not exactly like a James Bond car-plane…
Q: Can I take off from the highway?
A: No. In addition to power lines, billboards, overpasses, and other obstructions that make this idea unsafe, the Transition will have to be parked with the engine off in order to deploy the wings and engage the propeller. It is also illegal in most states (emergency landings excluded).
I’m curious; does the possibility of luring this company to Rhode Island make any of the if- it’s-not-being-taxed-right-now-then-it-needs-to-be crowd mellow their position on whether Rhode Island should help balance the state budget by ending its sales-tax exemption on aircraft?

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16 years ago

Skipping lightly past a comparison to the boating industry in RI and the effect of a tax thereon, I’d just like to say:
What a cool vehicle.

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