US flying car maker eyes India, Brazil, China

PANAJI, India, Nov 5, 2011 (AFP) - A company from the United States that is developing a flying car is eyeing the booming economies of India, Brazil and China as future markets, its co-founder said on Saturday.

About 100 people have already placed orders for the "combined flying-driving vehicle" the Transition, which has been priced at $279,000 and is scheduled for launch late next year, Massachusetts-based firm Terrafugia said.

The two-seat vehicle is designed to fly between local airports as well as drive on any road. The company says it is hoping that it will be the world's first commercially viable flying car.

It has a rear propeller for flying and is powered for both flight and on the road by unleaded petrol from regular service stations. It is small enough to fit into a household garage, the firm said on its website.

It converts from a car into a light sports aircraft in about 30 seconds.

"We will launch it initially in the US and eventually expand into Europe," Carl Dietrich, chief executive and co-founder of Terrafugia, told reporters on the sidelines of the Think Festival in India's resort state of Goa.

"But for the second phase of launching, we are looking at China, Brazil and India, which are growing markets for this kind of product."

The Think Festival, held in Bambolim Bay, north Goa, is a three-day discussion event bringing together prominent figures from around the world in politics, technology, arts, culture and human rights.

Terrafugia said in June that it had received special clearance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the vehicle to ply the US road network.

The Transition is the first combined flying-driving vehicle to receive such exemptions from US authorities. These exemptions will allow for deliveries to customers to begin.

Terrafugia -- Latin for "escape from land" -- said in March 2009 that the Transition had successfully completed its first flight, hailing it as a "milestone for aviation".

Dietrich told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year that the company's initial customers would be pilots moving around smaller airports across the United States.

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