Switchblade Flying Car Garners Record-Breaking Sales at Oshkosh
Samson Sky added 115 vehicles to its order books at EAA AirVenture and now has more than 2,400 reservations from 57 countries.
At the moment, the flying car has as many skeptics as believers. But the truthers made their presence known at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, last month.
At the air show, flying car manufacturer Samson Sky garnered record sales of its street legal Switchblade, expected to be able to both drive on highways and take off and fly from airports. The company added 115 Switchblade orders to its books, which, at about $170,000 per vehicle, would represent nearly $22 million in value.
With the added interest at Oshkosh, Samson Sky now has more than 2,400 reservations across 57 countries, including from customers in all 50 U.S. states. Those buyers will put down a $2,000 deposit within 45 days of the announcement of Switchblade’s first flight. But about 100 have already prepurchased the vehicle at full price to skip the queue.
“It was great to be back at AirVenture to take advantage of all the industry experts and suppliers who attend the show,” said Sam Bousfield, founder and CEO of Samson Sky and lead designer of the Switchblade. “We were able to hold several key meetings with future partners and investors that made the show an even bigger success for us.”
Bousfield and Samson Sky revealed the current iteration of the Switchblade, which has been in development for more than a decade, at Oshkosh in 2018, where it picked up over 100 reservations. Now, the design is headed for its first full flight after the company received FAA approval to begin airborne tests in June 2022.
The firm describes its design as a flying sports car: the two-seat, three-wheel, street legal vehicle parks in the owner’s garage, drives on highways, taxis and takes off on an airport runway, and flies like an airplane.
To get where they need to go fast, customers can drive Switchblade from home to a nearby airport, where it transforms from drive to flight mode with the push of a button. The vehicle’s retractable wings swing out, its tail unfolds, and within three minutes it’s ready to fly.
After taking off from a runway at least 1,100 feet long, the driver-pilot can then cruise to their destination at around 160 mph (139 knots). The vehicle needs about 700 feet of runway to land, after which it transforms back to driving mode, again with the push of a button.
“The feedback we’re getting is, the practicality of the Switchblade checks all the boxes for what people truly want in a flying car,” said Bousfield. “We hope a Switchblade will grace the skies and streets of your city very soon.”
With a 575-pound payload, Switchblade can hit airspeeds of 200 mph (174 knots) and a top ground speed of 125 mph. A 200 hp, liquid-cooled, 3-cylinder engine—which runs on premium gasoline and can be fueled at a gas station—supports a 450 sm (391 nm) range during flight. It includes state-of-the-art flight instruments as well as a high-tech dashboard for driving.
The Switchblade’s safety features include a whole-vehicle parachute, disk brakes, an optional autopilot, and a safety shell to protect against collisions akin to a Formula 1 race car. The vehicle also runs on the Skybrid safety system, which enables regenerative braking and reverse thrust that act like a drag parachute on a wet runway. Those features allow for shorter takeoffs and air brake assist on descent, among other capabilities.
The flying car is expected to start at $170,000, but it could also cost hundreds of hours of the owner’s time. That’s because the Switchblade is being certified as an experimental category kit-built aircraft to avoid a more rigorous FAA certification path and is sold unassembled. This requires the owner/operator to have built at least 51 percent of the aircraft—customers would need to spend about 2,000 hours building it entirely on their own.
However, a purchase also includes access to the Samson Builder Assist Program, which can bring the owner’s build time down to a week. Company engineers will provide training and automation for the owner’s portion of the build, preserving the 51 percent rule, then taking over the process from there.
On the ground, the Switchblade will be certified as a custom motorcycle or kit car, requiring an automobile or motorcycle license to operate it. Users will require a private pilot certificate to fly, but nonpilots can still purchase it as a car. In fact, it can be used as a flight training vehicle through the Samson flight school program.
In addition to the Switchblade, Samson Sky is building a special edition vehicle with features designed for specific uses or climates and limited editions that allow buyers to customize features. Later models will include the “winterized” Snowbird, the rugged Aurora, and the multiuse Trek, each with its own unique features.
But first, the Switchblade will need to fly. A preproduction prototype rolled out for taxi testing in April 2022, a few months before it received the FAA green light for flight testing. Shortly after, the aircraft began taking short “hops” from the runway at Moses Lake Municipal Airport (WA40) in Washington. That testing is expected to continue for several months.
Simultaneously, Samson Sky is gearing up for the Switchblade’s first full flight and has made some key design changes in preparation. For example, it switched from a five-blade to a seven-blade propeller and added custom transmission gears to improve thrust and rearranged its vertical fins to add control.
The company expects its Builder Assist assembly line to be up and running within 22 months of that maiden flight. Because of its experimental category classification, Switchblade needs no further certification before production can occur.
Jack Daleo, Staff Writer