December 21, 2023

Is The Switchblade A Hybrid Electric Car That Flies Or A Plane That Drives?

It’s a car that flies. Or a plane that drives. Either way you look at it you’re going to see that the Samson Sky Switchblade with its Skybrid Hybrid Electric Drive System is a fascinating machine. It’s a two-seat, three-wheel, street-legal vehicle that can be driven to an airport and flown. Read on for how it works.

Skybrid Hybrid Electric Drive System

Samson Sky is developing a hybrid electric drive system called Skybrid. The system uses an internal combustion engine to power a combination starter/generator. The generator portion provides power to the wheels on the ground when in Drive Mode. The 190 hp internal combustion engine is a liquid-cooled, turbocharged three-cylinder that Samson modified for aircraft use. It uses gasoline (as opposed to aviation fuel) and its throttle-by-wire, has electronic ignition, fuel injection, an integrated oil cooler, and a counter-balanced crankshaft to lessen vibration. Samson calls the engine Samson 3. Fun fact: Even with the necessary modifications, the engine is less than half the cost of a comparable aircraft engine.

Samson Sky Switchblade on the Street

On the street, the Switchblade is a street-legal vehicle. The company says that it offers a “finely tuned” driving experience whether carving turns or crossing the country. Cornering is said to be like a typical automobile. Some of its features include disc brakes, an intuitive high-tech dash, and climate controlled cabin. It’s no slouch in the performance department, with a max speed of 125-plus mph. Packing a 36-gallon fuel tank, the Switchblade is said to deliver around 33 miles per gallon on the street. This gives the Switchblade a driving range of almost 1,200 miles. In Drive Mode the Switchblade’s width is 6 feet and the length is 16.8 feet. With their tucked-away design, the wings and tail stay out of harm’s way no matter where you roam, making everyday travel a breeze. Additionally, there are many safety items including front and rear crumple zones, side intrusion and roll-over protection.

From Drive Mode to Flight Mode in Three Minutes

The Switchblade’s transition from Drive Mode to Flight Mode only takes about three minutes. Two independent actions are required. This avoids the possibility of accidentally deploying the wings and tail. During the mode change the wings and tail will extend automatically. In Flight Mode, Switchblade has a wingspan of 26.9 feet and a length of 20.2 feet. Throttle control shifts from the gas pedal to a hand throttle located between the seats. State-of-the-art flight instruments guide you on your way. In the air, the Samson Sky Switchblade has a cruising speed of 160 mph, a maximum airspeed of 200 mph, and a max altitude of 13,000 feet. Max range is 450 miles, and it burns 9.5 gallons of fuel per hour. The estimated payload is 575 pounds, take-off distance is 1,100 feet, and landing distance is 700 feet.

Benefits of Skybrid Technology

Samson Sky says that its exclusive hybrid drive and fly system has features unlike any other vehicle on earth. For example, Switchblade’s regenerative braking and reverse thrust act like a drag parachute to keep the vehicle straight on a wet runway. Furthermore, shorter take-off runs, air brake assist on descent when coming in for a landing, and many more advantages are made possible by Skybrid Technology. Also, don’t worry about the wings retracting in flight. Air pressure pushes back on the wings, forcing the wings to remain extended. Secondly, an automatic locking mechanism keeps the wing-swing locked in the extended position when in flight.

Transition from Flight Mode to Drive Mode

Before transitioning from Flight Mode to Drive Mode, stop the vehicle and engage the parking brake. A push of the Drive Mode button initiates the sequence. The wings and tail unlock, and the wings are pulled inside clamshell doors, into the belly of the vehicle. The tail folds and then retracts into the rear duct of the Switchblade. Finally, the throttle control is shifted by computer from hand throttle to gas pedal.

Build Info, Models, and Pricing

The Switchblade fits into the FAA’s experimental/homebuilt category. This requires the owner to build 51 percent of the vehicle. Samson Sky offers a Builder Assist Center that will be able to help complete the vehicle in as little as one week. You’ll need a private pilot’s license to fly Switchblade and a driver’s license to drive it. The base Switchblade will be priced from $170,000. There’s also a Switchblade Special and Switchblade Limited. Those two models will be priced at $330,000 and $770,000, respectively. In the future, Samson Sky will offer three additional models. They’re called Snowbird, Aurora, and Trek. Each has specific special features. It’s important to note that the Switchblade completed its maiden flight on November 5, 2023. It was airborne for almost 6 minutes at an altitude of 500 feet.

Ken Brubaker, Editor

Switchblade, Samson Sky, Skybrid, and Skybrid Technology are trademarks or registered marks, and are used with permission on these pages.

Get The eNewsletter

Stay Informed And Up-To-Date