With the recent news highlighting Aeromobile, Pal-V, Terrafugia, Google, and Airbus flying cars on the horizon, you might think that any further competitor for this niche market would give up and shut down. Not so with Samson Motors and the Switchblade.
A unique attribute of the Switchblade is the reason why they are accelerating progress towards first flight this fall, and deliveries soon after. Most flying cars carry the stigma that they would be at best a mediocre car or a mediocre plane. The Switchblade was designed from the beginning to provide high-performance on the ground, and high-performance in the air.
So far, testing in both wind tunnel and in real life on the ground has proven that they might be able to offer that. All of the large commercial aircraft manufacturers – Cessna, Boeing, Airbus – do extensive wind tunnel testing to validate their designs prior to production. Samson has done the same with the Switchblade, with well over 200 individual tests done at the University of Washington, Seattle, wind tunnel.
The results validated the earlier aerodynamic work of DAR Corp of Lawrence, Kansas, and allowed Samson to perfect the design prior to first flight and entering production.
"There is a reason why Cessna, Airbus, and Boeing have a predictably successful first flight, with little re-design prior to production. They use all of the tools, including the wind tunnel (which gets within 3% of actual), to make sure they are correct before they spend the funds to build test flight vehicles", said Samson CEO, Sam Bousfield. "We completed our design the same way."
Testing for ground performance was accomplished using a metal tube frame prototype that was used to test and easily modify the suspension and steering until they were able to out-perform a Jaguar XK8 in head-to-head acceleration testing. They also conducted standard Road and Track slalom course tests, and were able to compare their results with Road and Track’s historical data base. The Switchblade out-performed everything in their wheel base (distance between front and rear wheels) in R&T’s data base. Samson’s testing was done at maximum weight and without professional drivers. R&T’s tests were done at minimum weight, and with professional drivers.
Having been driven over 100 mph already, the Switchblade is being made capable of record-breaking speeds for a three-wheel vehicle. "Like Ferrari, Ford, Honda, and others, we know that by building vehicles capable of more than you might ever use on the road, you have a safer and more useful vehicle", said Bousfield. "With the Switchblade, we intend to obliterate the thought that there is any mediocrity necessary for a flying car."
The anticipated $140,000 price point of the Switchblade is also different than other flying cars being readied for market. Because of their performance abilities, and because of the fact that they protect the wings and tail on the ground, Samson believes they will be able to sell Switchblades in larger numbers than other flying car companies. Larger numbers translate to lower costs, which Samson feels will allow them to sell at a price point more people could afford.
That lower price comes with a commitment, however, as the Switchblade is being introduced as a kit vehicle. Samson is establishing assembly centers where purchasers can spend three weeks following their vehicle along the assembly line with professionals assisting them to produce their personal wings of freedom, and in the end, they will have a unique and sporty vehicle as well as the knowledge gained during the assembly process. Said Bousfield: "We feel that a good understanding of your flying car will help you become a better pilot, and a better driver."
If you would rather not be part of the building process, and have an interest in a special version, Samson will also be catering to the high-end market by offering a very exclusive, fully-built Limited Edition vehicle with interiors custom designed for each client, marketed in several areas of the world. This service will include consultation by a world-class vehicle designer to ensure the client’s taste and comfort is incorporated into these one-of-a-kind Switchblades.
Plans at Samson include pilot training using a high-success rate training model aimed at increasing the proficiency and attainment of pilot certificates. Bousfield feels that the next generation of transportation cannot be achieved by continuing with the status quo of ground-only transportation. Bousfield notes the foresight of Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford Motor Company, who gave a TED talk about the rapid acceleration towards traffic stagnation due to congestion, and the need to develop alternate means of travel.
"Artists dream the future, and science hurries to catch up", says Bousfield. "I see the future as envisioned by artists, and in that future, we are mostly flying." The idea of ‘what can be done; how could it be better’, is what drove Bousfield to come up with the initial concept for a three-wheel flying/driving vehicle. He did not try to answer the question of ‘how can we design a flying car’, but actually, sought out which vehicle configuration and layout might be the most successful for a vehicle that both drives and flies.
There is a future when we will be taking off from our back yards or rooftops, and where we will have fully electric flight. That future is at least a decade or greater off, and could be much further away. To truly use a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle on a daily basis, you have to imagine being able to land at every place you might want to stop at during your typical day. This would include your home, office, client locations, stores, gas stations or charging stations, restaurants, recreation spots, friend’s and family’s homes, and more. A quick glance shows how unlikely that is to occur in the near future.
With a vehicle that drives and flies, you can bypass gridlock while reducing the traffic load for others stuck in that mess, and land typically within a fifteen minute drive of wherever you want to eventually end up (at least in the US, which has numerous small airports in almost every city and area). When driving is the most expedient, you can drive. When flying will save time, money, and fuel, you have that option. With high performance in both modes, you gain the best of both worlds.
Now in year nine, Samson has built and tested their patented swinging wings, assembled their main body cabin, and is starting to build the last of the light-weight carbon fiber tail parts that make this vehicle possible. Samson feels that, due to their early use of advanced computerized engineering and wind tunnel testing, their vehicle will perform as anticipated, and require minimal re-design during flight testing. They have also built the pre-production prototype using the exact same materials and processes that would be used in production, which means they may avoid a lengthy manufacturing engineering step prior to production.
Look for first flight early this fall, and production beginning in 4th quarter of 2018 at a US West Coast location, followed by an East Coast location shortly afterwards.
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