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Dietrich is the chief operating officer at Terrafugia, a startup team of young engineers and private pilots in the Boston suburb of Woburn. In 2007, they began building the Transition, a "roadable aircraft" that transforms from a plane to a car and back again. When they set up Meteer's test flight they hoped to prove the concept and test the plane's stability and controllability ("rock solid," Meteer said). But they understood that how its performance was perceived would be as important as how it felt: If they could get people to buy into the idea now, it would be easier to sell them on the product down the line.