PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Flying cars are something people have dreamed about for the past century. In Redmond, that dream is about to become a reality.
The Switchblade, an aircraft that doubles as a car, is weeks away from taking off after a July 15 Federal Aviation Administration inspection found the invention safe to fly.
The project has been 14 years in the making and Sam Bousfield, CEO of Samson Sky and inventor of the Switchblade, said he was “delighted” to reach the milestone. After passing the FAA inspection, his team wasted no time in testing the speed taxi. The next day, they hit the taxiway.
“[The crew] took off their ‘I’m in R&D’ and they put on their ‘I’m in flight test’ crew hat, and I think that really set the tone for everything after that,” Bousfield said. “So we’re in a different game now.”
The speed taxi test was the first step. Next is the flight. Bousfield said the Switchblade rubber could remain on the road for the next few weeks once it is ready to fly.
Bousfield, an architect-turned-inventor, said he had been dreaming and drawing flying cars since he was in kindergarten. He said he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested or excited by the concept of a flying car.
While most people asked, “How do you make a car fly?” Instead, Bousfield looked at the problem of creating flying cars in a different way.
“The question for me was, ‘What is the layout of the vehicle, the overall design of the vehicle, to actually have something that can both drive and fly?’ And I answered that question. And that’s how we got the Switchblade,” he said.
Like a pocketknife, the Switchblade’s wings slide smoothly into the vehicle’s body with the push of a button, allowing it to seamlessly transition from sky to air. Its tail also deploys or retracts depending on whether it is being used for flying or driving.
The idea is that the vehicle could be parked in a garage, driven to an airport, flown to a new destination, and then driven anywhere on the ground after landing. After completing the trip, the user can send the plane home or to another location.
Samson Sky is trying to make the Switchblade a world-class vehicle by giving it all the benefits of a car, including a hybrid electric drive system.
“It’s like a little flying sports car,” Bousfield said. He said that unlike flying on jet planes, people will be in control of who they are traveling with when they depart and will be able to make sure their bags don’t get lost.
The Switchblade can seat two people, fly at speeds of 260 mph, and reach a maximum altitude of 16,000 feet – far less than the 30,000-40,000 feet that commercial aircraft climb. Bousfield said it allows passengers and pilots to see the views from a whole new perspective.
Five years ago, KOIN 6 News visited Samson Sky to check out what Bousfield was building. At the time, he thought the sky would be 500-600 Switchblades by 2022.
So far, this is not the case.
This did not faze Bousfield. In fact, he said the progress his team continues to make drives him to search for his flying car.
“The speed with which we do something is the biggest motivation for me. You start scoring goals and really getting results – that really fires up the team,” he said.
Now he said it will be a few more years before people start flying Switchblades.
Bousfield expects them to cost around $170,000 when they hit the market.
On their website, Samson Sky allows people to pre-order Switchblades. Make a reservation for free. However, a $2,000 deposit is required within 45 days of the Switchblade’s first public flight.
More than 1,670 people have made reservations so far, and Bousfield said that number is growing almost daily.
As for the Switchblade, it’s still unclear how people can insure it. There is no insurance for a flying car. At this point, Bousfield expects that Switchblade owners will need to purchase both car and plane insurance.
So far, the Switchblade has been built and tested entirely in Oregon, although Samson Sky says it has attracted interest from people around the world.
“When we see people solve their problems every day … it’s got to be a little bit encouraging, a little bit, you know, you can hang on for another week for that to happen,” Bousfield said.
At this point, Bousfield said his life motto has become “road + sky = endless possibilities.” He said it’s what he lives and breathes, and it’s another motivation to continue pursuing his childhood dream.