PORTLAND, Ore. – The Switchblade, a plane that doubles as a car, may be just weeks away from getting its wheels off the ground after a Federal Aviation Administration inspection on July 15 determined it was safe to fly.
This project has been 14 years in the making, COIN report, and Sam Bousfield, CEO of Samson Sky and inventor of the Switchblade, said he was “stoked” to reach this milestone. After passing the FAA inspection, his team wasted no time in starting high-speed taxi tests. They went out on the taxiway the next day.
“[The crew] “I did the R&D” and they put on the “I flight test” crew cap, and I think that really set the tone for everything after,” Bousfield said. “So, we’re in a different game now.”
The high-speed taxi test was the first step. Next is the flight. Bousfield said Switchblade’s rubber can leave the road in the next few weeks, as soon as it is ready to fly.
Bousfield, an architect-turned-inventor, said he dreamed and drew flying cars from kindergarten. He said he couldn’t remember a time when the concept of a flying car didn’t interest or excite him.
While most people ask, “How do you make a car fly?”, Bousfield instead looked at the challenge of creating a flying car in a different way.
“The question to me is ‘What is the layout of the vehicle, the design of the whole vehicle, that is needed to actually have something that can both run and fly?’ And I answered that question. And that’s how we got Switchblade,” he said.
Like a pocketknife, the Switchblade’s wings insert seamlessly into the body of the vehicle at the touch of a button, allowing it to seamlessly transition from sky to air. The tail also unfurls or retracts, depending on if it is used to fly or run.
The idea is that the vehicle can be parked in a garage, driven to an airport, flown to a new destination, and then driven anywhere on the ground after landing. When the trip is over, the user can fly home or fly somewhere else.
Samson Sky is trying to make the Switchblade a world-class vehicle, giving it all the amenities of a car, including a hybrid electric drive system.
“It’s like a little flying sports car,” Bousfield said. He said, unlike flying on a jet, people will have control over who they fly with, what time they fly, and can make sure their bags don’t get lost.
The Switchblade can hold two people, fly at 160 mph and reach a maximum altitude of up to 16,000 feet — much lower than the 30,000-40,000 feet at which commercial jets soar. Bousfield said this allows passengers and pilots to take in the view from a whole new perspective.
Five years ago, KOIN visited Samson Sky to check out what Bousfield was building. At the time, he thought there would be 500-600 Switchblades traversing the skies by 2022.
So far, that hasn’t happened, but that hasn’t softened Bousfield.
In fact, he said the progress of his team continues to make what drives him to chase his flying car.
“The speed at which we do things is the biggest motivation for me. You start hitting targets and actually doing things – it really lifts the team,” he said.
Now, he said it will probably be a few more years before people fly Switchblades.
When they hit the market, Bousfield expects them to go for around $170,000.
On its website, Samson Sky allows people to reserve Switchblades in advance. There is no charge for reservations. However, the $2,000 deposit will be due within 45 days of the first Switchblade public flight.
So far, more than 1,670 people have made reservations, and Bousfield said the number is growing almost daily.
One thing that remains uncertain about the Switchblade is how people can vouch for it. Insurance for flying cars does not exist. For now, Bousfield expects Switchblade owners to buy car insurance and plane insurance.
So far, the Switchblade has been built and tested entirely in Oregon, though Samson Sky says it’s piqued the interest of people around the world.
“When we see people that this is solving their problems every day … that should give you a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of, you know, you can go through another week doing this thing,” Bousfield said.
Now, Bousfield says his life motto has become “road + sky = endless possibilities.” He said that’s what he lives for and it’s another motivation to continue chasing his childhood dreams.