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In all continuities, the Autobots and Decepticons were originally one race which split into two factions. In some, this was largely a civilian vs military split; others were a bit more ambiguous.

In many of the continuities, the Decepticons are capable of natural flight while in robot mode (or possibly more correctly levitation). By-and-large, Autobots do not share this ability. They either require jetpacks, or can only fly while in their Alt-Modes (as planes, rockets, spaceships, etc).

Since Autobots/Decepticons were originally one mixed group, it seems as though they should largely have the same feature sets and abilities. Flight/levitation would be useful to civilian Transformers, just as they would be useful to military ones.

We know that some Transformers have changed factions, including from Decepticon to Autobot, so the technology isn't exactly kept completely secret or hidden. If we accept that Transformers can be manually upgraded, it seems as though upgrading to provide flight/levitation capability would be extremely beneficial.

Is there any reason why this has not, or cannot be done?

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    Everyone knows from harry potter that only through the use of Dark Magic can you fly sans broomstick. – CandiedMango May 1 '14 at 13:39
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In the 84 cartoon episode "War Dawn" we see a flashback to before the war. The Decepticons were military robots and able to fly, the Autobots were formed from Dock workers like Orion Pax (Optimus Prime).

Even then the writers didn't always remember, in the first 3 part episode "More Than Meets The Eye" Everyone is flying. It's only later it was changed to Decepticon only.

Because of this some writers have decided to include these abilities in their stories.

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    Yeah the 1984 continuity was all over the place. One episode Optimus Prime is all gravelly voiced elderly statesman, the next he's wise cracking and laying down trash talk on Megatron! Gotta love it! – System Down May 1 '14 at 17:31
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The truth is that all Transformers of the original cartoon can fly, not only the Decepticons, it was clearly seen in the first chapters of the cartoon and then in the third season when Autobots can fly in space.

There are several theories for the Autobots suddenly not flying, the most extended one is that Decepticons had advantage in the air due to the Seekers and they decided to fight mainly on land where they had the advantage. Other theory was that the the makers of the cartoon realized that the Autobots wouldn't use their land vehicle forms if they could travel by flight. The last theory is that Autobots prefer to not fly because it consumes lots of energy, explaining why the Decepticons are so obssesed to obtain it.

Things are different in other continuities, in most of them flight is mainly resctricted for those whose alternate form can fly or have flight as special ability. A good example would be the beginning of Beast Wars, the only ones who could fly were Terrorsaur and Waspinator in their beast modes and Optimus Primal in robot mode as special ability.

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The main thing as you stated is that they are all one race in reality. So they SHOULD all have the same potential in terms of what abilities they COULD have. As stated already there are some episodes in almost all continuities (even in the films) where autobots have been flying (in G1 even the dinobots had this ability. In the film universe this is still to be seen).

So why do the autobots not use this ability that often? Partly because in some continuities it seems they don't have it. In others like G1 it looks like it was retconned away from them (but there are time and again exceptions thanks to the G1 continuity). So as the in universe is a mess we need to look at the out of universe explanation.

And there it is simple: The autobots are most often ground vehicles (some rare hybrids/exceptions exist in almost every generation though). While the decepticons are most often air and space vehicles. If both can fly without transforming into something flying then we have the problem that the writers would need a reason for starscream to transform into a plane. Furthermore it diminishes the difference between the autobots and the decepticons and furthermore it is a good plot point. As it means that the decepticons are more difficult to beat for the autobots which increases tension (in a few episodes it was a plot point that the autobots were down a cliff or in a pit and couldn't just fly out).


So all in all: In universe there is no reason why the autobots wouldn't have this ability, and furthermore they time and again showed to have this ability when it was cool or plot relevant. Thus the only reason why it always looks that they don't have it is an out of universe reason. (as example even in the films we have optimus suddenly flying into space at the end of the latest film while in T3 they needed a space ship to do the same).

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