A year after it was pronounced airworthy by the FAA, and 14 years after it was first announced, the Samson Sky Switchblade is officially off the ground. This street-legal three-wheeler converts to a 200-mph (320-km/h) airplane at the touch of a button.
At the Grant Country International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, the Switchblade lifted off for an exhilarating first flight, reaching an altitude of 500 ft (150 m) and circling around to touch down some six minutes later.
“After 14 years of design and rigorous testing, our first flight is a huge milestone,” stated Sam Bousfield, Samson Sky CEO and designer of the Switchblade. “This puts us on the path towards producing thousands of Switchblades to meet the large and enthusiastic demand we’re receiving.”
FIRST FLIGHT of the Samson Sky Switchblade Flying Sports Car
Samson says it’s taken some 2,300 reservations for the Switchblade, from 57 different countries, at an estimated starting price of US$170,000, highlighting the fact that there’s definitely a market for a truly roadable aircraft. This three-wheel design qualifies as a motorcycle in many jurisdictions, vastly simplifying the street accreditation process.
It’ll sell as an experimental/homebuilt aircraft, so you’ll need to build more than half of it yourself – but Samson says it’ll have a Builder Assist Center where you can do that in a week, with all the right tools and supervision on site.
The two-seat vehicle can manage speeds over 125 mph (200 km/h) in street mode, with its wings and tail folded out of the way. In flight mode, it’ll get up to 200 mph (322 km/h) and 13,000 ft (400 m) of altitude, with a hybrid power system running on regular 91-octane pump gas delivering up to 500 miles (805 km) of range from a full 36-gallon (125 L) fuel tank.
The transition from car to plane won’t be particularly quick; it’ll take around three minutes for the tail to extend and unfurl, and for the wings to swing out from under the chassis and lock into place. But the process will be automatic – we put this in the future tense because Samson is yet to show a video of a prototype actually doing it. Here’s the underlying mechanism, though, and a render of how it’ll look.
Introducing the Wing Swing
This ain’t your Jetsons-style VTOL flying car; you’ll need 1,100 ft (335 m) of clear tarmac at the very least to take off. And you won’t be allowed to do that on the street, so you’ll need to plan your multi-mode trips around airports, or else be real sneaky about it. But still, it’s an airplane you can park in a regular garage rather than paying for hangar space, and it’ll be a pretty remarkable way to get around as and when it reaches production.
There’s no word yet on when exactly that might be; Samson simply says this flight test data will be used to finalize production engineering and build several production prototypes. Production, as we know, is hard, so Samson still has a mountain to climb, but like the remarkable Klein Vision flying car, the Switchblade is now airborne and proving its capabilities in both modes. We wish the team all the best as it pushes forward.
Source: Samson Sky