Larry Neu –
Retired NASA Aerospace Engineer, Current Airline Transport Pilot
I wanted to be the first person on Earth smart enough to order a Switchblade.
It was Oshkosh 2009. Unfortunately, I had a previous commitment and was not going to be able to stay for the show, so I was there early, watching all the exhibitors set up their booths before opening. I figured the day before Oshkosh is better than no Oshkosh at all.
While walking around watching the frantic efforts of the exhibitors to set up their booths, I noticed a scale model of the Switchblade sitting haphazardly in a pile of items still to be placed in the Switchblade booth. It was love at first sight! Seeing the novel concept of a complete set of wings folding neatly under the cockpit seemed brilliant. Plus, being a three-wheeled vehicle that could be licensed as a motorcycle appeared to take care of the many problems that some four-wheeled vehicles are still trying to solve.
As an aerospace engineer working at NASA for 25 years, and as an Airline Transport pilot who has flown many types of jets and little airplanes, I realized the Switchblade concept could work with the right person in charge of development. I began engaging Sam Bousfield in a conversation while he was still setting up the booth. Even though I’m sure he was in a scramble mode, and answering somebody’s questions was probably the last thing he wanted to do at that moment, Sam still took time with me to discuss all the engineering and wind tunnel work that had already been done on the Switchblade. Spending those few minutes with Sam and seeing the commitment he had to his design, convinced me that I’d found a winner. I saw the gleam in Sam’s eyes as he talked about the Switchblade, and the obvious passion he had was what made me comfortable enough for the next step in this process.
When Sam mentioned that Samson was going to start taking deposits for kit positions there at AirVenture, I said, “sign me up right now”. I wanted to be the first person on Earth smart enough to order a Switchblade. Sam was totally unprepared for a buyer and stated he did not even have the paperwork with him, since Oshkosh wasn’t scheduled to start until the next day. I told him I was leaving town that night and could not return. Sam just looked at me, not sure what to say. This was my chance though, my mind was made up. So I handed Sam a $2,000 check for the deposit and told him to send me the paperwork when he could. We took a picture of us shaking hands and me holding a piece of paper with a hand scribbled “1” on it. That was documentation enough for me. I was leaving Oshkosh that night with kit #1.
Of course the years have passed by and progress was slower than we all had hoped for, but creating a totally new multi-mode vehicle takes lots of design, engineering, wind tunnel testing and fabrication, and all that takes money. Sam and his team have never wavered in their desire to see this project through to its culmination. There are no shortcuts in Samson’s way of doing things. Every update that they send out, I eagerly anticipate. I visited with Sam and Martha last summer in their hangar at Prineville, and it is all coming together. I can’t wait for the day when Sam calls me and says to come to the factory to start building kit #1.
Now that I am retired from NASA, I look forward to the day in the very near future when I can jump in my Switchblade, fly where I choose, fold the wings and drive to the nearest location I want to visit. It is the ultimate freedom machine. You can’t make this stuff up. Sam is putting the ‘buck’ back in Buck Rogers.
Larry Neu – Ohio, USA