November 16, 2017
The future starts in Oregon: Flying cars are nearly here
The Switchblade is set to hit the air and ground by April 2018
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KOIN) — For 25 years, Sam Bousfield worked as an architect, turning ideas into a reality. He created and tinkered with possibilities. Under his guidance, visions became tangible.
Then, 9 years ago, Bousfield combined his profession with his passion, concocting a creation that even he calls, “pretty wild.” He wasn’t sure, at the time, if he could pull it off. But after some market research, and as designs turned to prototypes, they started to change their mind.
“It got to the point we realized this could work,” Bousfield said.
Sam Bousfield thought up the idea for a flying car 9 years ago. Now it’s nearly ready. (KOIN)
Bousfield and his team at Samson Sky are nearly there. In a hangar in Prineville, Oregon, a town with few than 10,000 people in Crook County, there are Switchblade prototypes, a vehicle that bridges the sky with the ground. In other words: A flying car.
“I never really thought that I would one day become an aircraft designer,” Bousfield said. “It just got to be where I had some ideas and they turned out to be valid.”
The flying car is appropriately named. Like a switchblade, the vehicle can quickly pop open its wings and then close. Going from flying, to landing, to driving can happen in no time. The car can fly up to 200 mph and exceed more than 100 mph on the ground.
“If you’re flying just even a straight line a freeway, you’ll get there in half the time,” Bousfield said.
The Switchblade, which Bousfield hopes will be ready to go by this April, is projected to cost around $140,000. Bousfield envisions there will be 500-600 Switchblades traversing the ground and sky 5 years from now. The prototypes, coated in primer and high-tech carbon fiber, are 70% completed, Bousfield said.
Figuring out the vehicle’s tail is the next hurdle.
It didn’t take long for Bousfield to buy into the idea that creating a flying car was a possibility. Other people, though, weren’t as easy to convince.
“Are you insane?” Bousfield remembers people asking when he told them about his intended invention. “I mean, really? You’re going to try that?”
Creating the car wasn’t the hardest thing about Bousfield’s vision. Getting financing and people to buy in was. The surprising practicality of a flying car, and the temptation of saving time and money eventually won people over. Samson Sky has received roughly $4.5 million in investments so far.
“If we keep pushing, we could find ourselves in a pretty big niche market,” Bousfield said.
Shawn Griffin didn’t need any convincing. Griffin, who lives outside Atlanta, has been flying twice a week for work since 1989. He first heard about the Switchblade 4 years ago.
“I kind of knew this is where the future is going,” Griffin said.
Even in a big city like Atlanta, Griffin can see the appeal.
“There are multiple airports you could just fly across Atlanta, land at the airport (and) zip over to where you got to go,” Griffin said. “It turns a 4 hour trip into an hour, hour-and-a-half trip.”
The project has national and international possibilities, but its creation has been localized. The lead builder is Ron Burch, a Prineville resident. Redmond manufacturer Composite Approach and Les Schwab have pitched into the building efforts. Without them, Bousfield said, building a flying car wouldn’t be fathomable.
“There have been several times where I’ve said I’m not only in over my head,” Bousfield said. “But I’m looking up from the bottom of the pool but I never lost faith that we would get there.”
Along with having to finish building the Switchblade, Samson Sky also has to figure out how a flying car fits in with the FAA and the state’s Department of Transportation. From a consumer standpoint, there are also a couple of checkpoints. Potential operators will have to get a private pilot’s license, which can cost up to $15,000, and then pay the $140,000 for the car.
They’re nearly there — but the clock is ticking. There are already 63 pre-flight owners who have invested into the Switchblade project with hopes they’ll be flying and driving their own by April. And when it’s done, a dream first thought of 9 years ago, could change transportation forever.
“If it’s something you can use every day, flying becomes not just a hobby, not just something you might do for pleasure or fun,” Bousfield said. “It saves you time and money.
“We want to provide that gap between everybody on the ground and everybody in the air in the future.”