The Rotax 912ULS piston engine powered, carbon-fiber vehicle is planned to have a flight range of 425 nmi (489 mi; 787 km) using either automotive premium grade unleaded gasoline or 100LL avgas and a cruising flight speed of 93 kn (107 mph; 172 km/h). Equipment includes a Dynon Skyview glass panel avionics system, an airframe parachute, and an optional autopilot.
On the road, it can drive up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) with normal traffic. The Transition Production Prototype's folded dimensions of 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) high, 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) wide and 18 ft 9 in (5.72 m) long are designed to fit within a standard household garage. When operated as a car, the engine power take-off near the propeller engages a variable-diameter pulley CVT automatic transmission to send power to the trailing-suspension mounted rear wheels via half-shafts powering belt drives. In flight, the engine drives a pusher propeller. The Transition has folding wings, pusher propeller and twin tail.
On July 1, 2010 it was announced that the Terrafugia Transition had been granted an exemption from the FAA concerning its Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) allowing the Transition to be certified with a take-off weight up to 1,430 pounds (650 kg); the limit matches the MTOW for amphibious light-sport aircraft. The extra 110 pounds (50 kg) granted by the exemption provides more weight allowance for the mandatory road safety features such as airbags and bumpers.
The proposed design of the production version was made public at AirVenture Oshkosh on July 26, 2010. Aerodynamic changes revealed included a new, optimized airfoil, Hoerner wingtips, and removal of the canard after it was found to have an adverse aerodynamic interaction with the front wheel suspension struts; furthermore, the multipurpose passenger vehicle classification from the NHTSA removed the requirement for a full width bumper that had inspired the original canard design.
On November 16, 2010 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published Terrafugia's petition for a temporary, three-year hardship exemption from four FMVSS standards in the Transition. Terrafugia requested to use lighter weight motorcycle tires instead of RV tires, polycarbonate for the windshield and side windows, basic airbags instead of advanced, dual stage airbags and to not include an electronic stability control system. The NHTSA granted all of the requested exemptions on June 29, 2011, but limited the stability control and airbag exemptions to one year.
In June 2011, a delay was announced pushing initial customer deliveries to "late 2012". December 2011 saw the base price increased to US$279,000.
After undergoing drive tests and high-speed taxi tests, the production prototype completed its first flight on March 23, 2012 at the same airport in Plattsburgh, New York that was used for the Proof of Concept's flight testing. The production prototype then made its auto show debut at the 2012 New York International Auto Show in April 2012.
In June 2012, Terrafugia announced that the Transition had completed the first of six phases of flight testing. By July, the second phase of testing was underway, expanding the performance envelope in the sky and continuing drive testing on the ground.
In January 2013, development continued and the company announced that it might be necessary to construct a third, completely new prototype, due to the large number of modifications required. The modifications to date are said to appear to have improved the previous handling characteristics.
Production Prototype with wings extended at New York Int'l Auto Show in April, 2012
Prototype with wings partially folded
Prototype with wings folded
Internal cockpit view
Data from Terrafugia Transition Proof of Concept specifications. Terrafugia Transition 2010 specifications.
Use of lighter weight but equally safe motorcycle tires instead of RV tires. (three year exemption from FMVSS No. 110, S4.1 and S4.4)
Not including an electronic stability control system because of its weight and potential to become a single point of failure that might unintentionally throttle back the engine in flight. (one year exemption from FMVSS No. 126)
Use of lighter and stronger, but less scratch resistant, polycarbonate for the windshield and side windows in place of glass to more safely withstand bird strikes. (three year exemption from FMVSS No. 205, S5)
Use of a single-stage air bag instead of an advanced, dual-stage air bag (one year exemption from FMVSS No. 208, S14 apart from S14.5.1(a))"
^"Transition Interior 2011 - High resolution graphic rendering". Terrafugia press images. Terrafugia, Inc. 2011-06-17. Archived from the original on 2011-06-23. Retrieved April 5, 2012. "Reference to the image www.terrafugia.com/press/photos/TransitionNextGen/GraphicRendersHIRES/TransitionInterior-2011.jpg photos/TransitionNextGen/GraphicRendersHIRES/TransitionInterior-2011.jpg"