A staple of science fiction and futuristic fantasies may soon become a reality.

Terrafugia Inc. announced yesterday that their prototype flying car, the Transition, has successfully completed its first test flight and will be introduced to the public later this week at the New York Auto Show.

The flying car has always had a special place in the American imagination. Inventors have been trying to make them since the 1930s, according to Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst who owns R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, N.Y.

But Mann thinks Terrafugia has come closer than anyone to making the flying car a reality. The government has already granted the company’s request to use special tires and glass that are lighter than normal automotive ones, to make it easier for the vehicle to fly. The government has also temporarily exempted the Transition from the requirement to equip vehicles with electronic stability control, which would add about six pounds to the vehicle.

The company hopes to have the flying car ready to sell to the public as early as next year. However, don't expect to just walk up to a dealership and fly away with one of these vehicles. Potential buyers are required to take a test and complete 20 hours of flight training before they can get behind the wheel.  Not to mention the car is expected to cost upwards of $280,000, and that price could increase after its introduction at the show.

But hey, that's a small price to pay for a childhood dream come true, right?