April 6, 2016
Flying Sports Car On Central Oregon’s Horizon
Aiming to spotlight Central Oregon startups that are economic trend setters, this column searches out local businesses demonstrating innovations that have the potential to set industry standards outside our region. The Switchblade by Samson Sky shatters current aviation technology, efficiently navigates ground and air regulation, executes modern marketing tactics and is positioned to change the face of transportation as society knows it.
Company: Samson Sky, Inc.
Founders: Sam and Martha Bousfield
[email protected], 530-878-4808, 4001 SW Aviation Blvd, Prineville, OR 97754
Where did the company name come from?
The name Samson was chosen as a historical name to communicate power and strength.
When did you open your doors?
We began business in 2000
What is your product/market niche?
New technology in transportation; time saving transportation
What has been your greatest success to date?
Swinging the wings was our biggest milestone, as the wing swing mechanism is key to the success of the Switchblade
What is your company’s number one goal in the next year?
First flight of the Switchblade pre-production prototype
What other ways is your company involved in the community?
We hosted the Prineville Air Fair last fall as well as became members of the Chamber of Commerce.
No. employees: 6
Outlook for growth: We anticipate hiring up to 37 new employees in the next 12-18 months
Though Samson Sky was initially founded in 2005 by Designer Sam Bousfield, 2008 was when the Switchblade project began. Currently Bousfield says the pre-production flying prototype has completed carbon fiber wings and the ground test vehicle recently out performed a Jaguar XK8 in a ground acceleration test.
This has all been accomplished at Samson’s 2,400 square foot hangar at the Prineville Airport. The four in-house and two administrator team work in tandem with contractors, consultants and leadership from the Samson five members of the advisory board which includes a marketing executive from Toyota, a successful aircraft manufacturing production line chief and the CFO of Earthlink from start-up to IPO.
Samson relies on several Central and Northwestern Oregon mold and part production shops for the majority of their composite parts (Composite Approach of Bend and Composite Universal Group of Scappoose) and says plans for a local kit manufacturing facility starting in 2017 are in the works.
When asked about challenges in technology and regulation Bousfield thoughtfully details his rational for much of the Switchblades design and intent for practical, everyday use. “The reason for three wheels came from the initial concept studies of how this type of vehicle might be achieved. Three wheels is the minimum needed for safe stability in ground mode, and safe landings in air mode. Three wheels gave us the lightest weight vehicle, and with a single front wheel, the most aerodynamic body shape. I count this choice as one of the single most important decisions that has lead to our success with the Switchblade.”
Bousfield says having three wheels has been helpful meeting air and road regulations. “Classed federally as a motorcycle (three wheels or less), we can easily meet motorcycle regulations while meeting aircraft design requirements. Whereas classification as a car with four wheels is a whole other can of worms.”
“To best navigate the Federal Air Administration (FAA),” Bousfield explains, “The kit vehicle choice was a simple decision. Cars are upgraded often once each year in minor fashion, and once every third or fourth year in a major re-do. With airplanes, it takes three to five years to design and then that same amount of time for certification by the FAA. Kit aircraft can be updated as often as the designer wishes. The marketplace responds to this, and for over five years running, there are more experimental class (kit) aircraft registered in the U.S. than certified aircraft.
“The current regulations are clear that the purchaser of the kit must be present and participate in the construction of the kit. The purchaser is also given the right to maintain their vehicle once completed.”
Bousfield says this assistance is a benefit to the purchaser because “even if you didn’t have the skills necessary when you started, the purchaser will have greater success in learning to fly. A person of average mechanical skill can easily build an aircraft with professional help along the way. The kit will come to the buyer almost 50 percent assembled, with most major components already built and ready to complete assembling.”
Buyers will be able to choose whether to build at home or utilize the Samson Build Center.
Expecting to be in production in a little over twelve months, selling kits shortly thereafter and having 45 orders secured, Bousfield says, “We will start Limited Edition sales just after we fly in countries where kit aircraft can be sold as a completed vehicle.”
For now, Samson Sky does an excellent job keeping their audience abreast of advancements through excellent productions on YouTube, their 4,000+ newsletter subscribers and over 12,000 Facebook followers.
Through outreach Bousfield has been asked many times by the public how landing and takeoff regulation. Operators will need access to an airport, airstrip or your private property. He says, “There are plenty of small, regional airports around in our area: Bend, Prineville, Redmond, Madras, Sisters, Dry Creek Airpark and Sunriver.”
When asked why he wanted to pursue the seemingly daunting course of creating a flying sports car he responded, “I looked at the future and saw that the future of transportation is in the air. We are getting too crowded for the major cities. The eleven day traffic jam in Beijing was a wakeup call for me.”
The Switchblade touts accessibility to quicker and easier travel not only as it meets regulation, but fundamental to its design and purpose. “If the weather is bad, you can drive. If the distance is great, you can fly. Businesses will gain the benefit of having their reach extended using existing staff. The Switchblade puts business aircraft use within reach of many more companies, at a fraction of what it costs to own and operate aircraft of comparable flying capabilities.
Bousfield imagines the Switchblade improving the abilities of emergency response. “Getting a doctor or medic into a remote area, search and rescue, border patrol, and fire spotting. Being a fraction the cost of a helicopter to own and operate and having the flexibility to drive or fly during a mission.”
Bousfield uses technologic and mechanical leaps like, “The advance from bicycle to motorcycle,” as an analogue for the Switchblade saying, “For this change to occur, inventors had to develop engines that could fit on a bicycle frame and not over-power the rider.”
Original published article: http://cascadebusnews.com/flying-sports-car-central-oregons-horizon/
To see footage of happenings with the Switchblade, check out this YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMQtD3UV1ho