Frequently Asked Questions
- How much do they cost?
- How do I purchase one?
- If I am not a pilot, can I still buy a Switchblade?
- What license(s) will be required?
- What about insurance?
- Where can I take off and land?
- Can I take off from a neighborhood street, freeway or parking lot?
- Can I take off from my own land?
- How high can I fly?
- Can the Switchblade be operated out of a controlled airport?
- Can I drive the Switchblade in a carpool lane?
- How about toll roads?
- Can I drive this on a freeway?
- Are the controls different for flying vs. driving?
- How is braking accomplished?
- Does this have a transmission?
- What engine is being used?
- Why not use an aviation engine?
- What happens if there is an in-flight emergency?
- Can the wings retract while in flight?
- Is it possible to forget one aspect of changing from motorcycle to aircraft and so take off unprepared for flight?
- Would a minor collision on the ground render the vehicle non-airworthy
- How safe is the vehicle in a major accident?
- Is a parachute landing survivable?
- Aren’t motorcycles more dangerous to drive on the roads than cars?
- Won’t this flip over in a hard turn?
- How do you see behind you?
- How do you handle the change of lighting required? (navigation lights vs. motorcycle)
- No windshield wiper?
- What keeps the wings retracted in hard cornering?
- How do I learn to fly the Switchblade?
- How do you extend the wings?
- How do you retract the wings?
- What instrumentation will be provided?
- What performance can be expected of the vehicle?
- What will take off be like?
- What fuel is used?
How much do they cost?
Target price for the vehicle is $120,000 USD. This includes the Switchblade Kit, 190 hp liquid-cooled V4 engine, transmission, VFR avionics package, and interiors. The Samson Builder Assist Program will allow you to complete your Switchblade in as little as 3 weeks full time, with pro help at every assembly line station. The Builder Assist Program will be an additional $20,000.
How do I purchase one?
At this time, you may sign up for an early delivery position. CLICK HERE to reserve your Switchblade.
If I am not a pilot, can I still buy a Switchblade?
Yes, you may purchase a Switchblade, and can drive it anywhere you like. You may also use it for your flight training vehicle, saving a considerable amount of money while doing so. Learning to fly is part of the lifestyle of a Switchblade owner. I think you will find that pilots are a very upbeat and ethical group, with a close sense of friendship for other pilots. It is a great way to meet friends and spend quality time.
What license(s) will be required?
Driving on the ground will require a motorcycle driver’s license, a driver’s license, or a driver’s license with a motorcycle addition depending on what state and country you live in. CLICK HERE for access to USA state-by-state regulations. To fly the Switchblade, you would need a Private Pilot Certificate. Samson will offer flight training packages along with the Switchblade, and if you use your Switchblade for your training vehicle, the cost for flight training is nearly cut in half. It can be done at your local flight school with their aircraft and the total cost will depend on how fast you learn and how intensively you train. Most people can attain their Private Pilot’s Certificate for a total cost of between $7,000 and $8,500 USD.
You can become a Private Pilot if you are at least 17 years old and you read, speak, write and understand the English language. Training for a Private Pilot License has 2 parts: 1. Ground School learning the theory and rules of flying which can be done through an online course or at a flight school. 2. Flight instruction with a Certified Flight Instructor, which involves a minimum of 40 hours of actual flight time.
What about insurance
Negotiations are currently underway with insurers who can provide both ground and air insurance. While there is currently no flying car insurance program, initially Switchblade drivers will need two policies: one for the air and a separate one for the ground. Due to the training included with our vehicles, and the safety features we are providing, we believe we will be able to provide multiple insurance options. We will have an insurance representative at Samson who will assist purchasers with insurance matters.
Where can I take off and land?
You can drive the Switchblade to any public airport to take off, and may land at the same, or any other, public airport. You can also take off and land from any private airport where you have privileges
Can I take off from a neighborhood street, freeway or parking lot?
FAA rules prohibit any vehicle from taking off from private or public streets for non-emergency purposes. Part of the value of a Switchblade is the idea that you can use it in an emergency to save people’s lives. We can’t imagine anyone objecting to saving your own life or someone else’s in an emergency situation by taking off or landing from any place safe enough to do so. Perhaps in the future we may be able to take off and land within a very short (nearly vertical) fashion, and then that would give a reason to change the rules to allow take off and landing in a greater range of locations.
Can I take off from my own land?
If you own sufficient land to construct a private runway, theoretically you could! You would need to adhere to several regulations, including the ability to gain elevation before crossing over neighboring land.
Can the Switchblade be operated out of a controlled airport?
Our standard instrument panel will allow flight to and from controlled airports. The whole idea behind the Switchblade is to expand your horizons and capabilities.
Can I drive the Switchblade in a carpool lane?
Most states in the U.S. have regulations which allow motorcyles such as the Switchblade to travel in the carpool lane without stickers. Check your local regulations, but in most cases it should be allowed.
Are the controls different for flying vs. driving?
We plan to provide both ‘pilot’ and ‘driver’ with comfortable and familiar controls. A control wheel is provided that functions like an aircraft ‘yoke’ in the air and operates like a steering wheel on the ground.
How is braking accomplished?
The front wheel is steered at all times, so the differential braking common in most light aircraft is not utilized. Powerful disc brakes at all wheels provide sure stops, operated by a traditional automotive-style brake pedal.
What engine is being used?
Since this vehicle has to meet smog requirements on the ground, using a strictly aircraft engine burning leaded fuel was out of the question. The Rotax engines available were not powerful enough for our use. After searching for several years, we found, modified, and tested a 1.6L V4 engine that is liquid-cooled, meets smog, was stronger than we needed it to be, and was light enough to work in the Switchblade. We reduced the rpm limit by 30%, so that it has a long life as an aircraft engine as well as for the ground. It is badged as a Samson engine, and has dual ignition, fuel pumps, fuel injection systems, air intakes, and engine computers. Even with all of the modifications, it is half the cost of a comparable aircraft engine.
Why not use an aviation engine?
As a dual-purpose vehicle, the engine will be required to have emission controls that aircraft engines do not provide. Additionally, the uniquely different demands of flying and driving make it desirable to have an engine that can perform well in both modes.
What happens if there is an in-flight emergency?
The glide ratio of 8:1 allows an element of control for emergency landings, while, as standard equipment, a ballistic chute recovery system provides an escape route found only on a few aircraft.
Can the wings retract while in flight?
Two features act independently to prevent a wing retract while flying. The first is that the air pressure pushes back on the wings, forcing the wings to remain extended. Secondly, a manually implemented locking mechanism keeps the wing-swing positively locked in the open position when in flight.
Is it possible to forget one aspect of changing from motorcycle to aircraft and take off unprepared for flight?
We are designing the system so that it will be impossible to engage the ducted fan unless the vehicle is in flight mode, (wings and vertical stabilizers deployed, wheel location adjusted for takeoff) as well as the electrical/electronic aspects of the change (instruments, engine computer). Of course, there remains the visual inspection of readiness, as would always be done as part of a pre-flight.
Would a minor collision on the ground render the vehicle non-airworthy?
The main wings are contained within the belly of the vehicle to keep them out of harm’s way while on the ground. A steel keel protects the wings from damage if the vehicle high-centers or strikes bottom in some manner. Similarly, the tail is retracted in ground mode, keeping it from harm in low-impact bumps. High-speed impact can render any vehicle non-useable. If in doubt, consult an aircraft mechanic or a Samson dealer.
How safe is the vehicle in a major accident?
Formula 1 racing cars are designed to take impacts that would normally kill an occupant by creating an inner safety cell surrounded by an expendable outer structure. That same technology is being used by Samson Motors and DAR Corporation to create a safety shell around the occupants to protect them from front and rear collisions. Side collision protection is enhanced by protection bars to produce perhaps one of the safest three-wheeled vehicles ever manufactured. Optional seat belt airbags add another layer of safety, as do three-point safety harnesses.
Is a parachute landing survivable?
Statistics show overwhelming evidence of survivability for those who deploy their Ballistic Recovery System (BRS) at a suitable altitude. Additionally, our design includes a nose-first landing attitude with rotation, so that much of the impact energy can be absorbed from the rotation. Having suspension may also provide further cushioning to many landing scenarios.
Aren’t motorcycles more dangerous to drive on the roads than cars?
Motorcycles give more freedom of control, are faster to react and bring the outside world closer to you as you drive past. For many, the exhilaration provided by the mode of transportation, with the nimble handling and the ability to lean through turns, outweighs the fact that there is very little to protect you in an accident. In a typical motorcycle, your protection is what you wear (leather, helmet) as well as your ability to react much faster than other vehicles can. The main problem is the apparent invisibility of a motorcycle to surrounding drivers. In the Switchblade, nimble handling common to motorcycles remains to a significant degree. However, the visibility of the Switchblade to other drivers is greatly increased over that of a typical motorcycle. Furthermore, this is a fully enclosed vehicle, giving it many safety features present in most cars.
Won’t this flip over in a hard turn?
The proper design of a three-wheeled vehicle includes a workout for overturning. Simply put, if you have significant weight high off the ground in a vehicle with closely spaced wheels, overturning is almost assured. The Switchblade is designed with wide wheel placement and a low center of gravity, so that the wheels will lose traction in most circumstances, producing a spin or ‘drift’, before the vehicle would overturn. Cornering has been tested to be similar to a typical automobile, with excellent braking to assist in overall control.
How do you see behind you?
Motorcycle laws require rear view mirrors. We are working with the D.O.T. to be able to substitute a rear view camera/dash monitor that would serve the same function with less drag. Final versions may have aerodynamic mirrors, similar to automobiles.
How do you handle the change of lighting required? (navigation lights vs. motorcycle) Front and rear motorcycle turn signals will have an added bulb for navigation lighting at each side of the vehicle as far apart as feasible, per the FAA regulations.
Our Samson Motors Switchblade MMV will have a safety glass windshield and windshield wiper with spray windshield cleaner like an automobile.
How do I learn to fly a Switchblade?
Regional training will be available via existing flying clubs and training centers that may also provide sales. For existing pilots, cross-over flight training will be available, which typically reduces insurance premiums.
How do you extend the wings?
The wings will be unlatched and manually pulled out in preparation for flight mode. Additionally, an optional electromechanical wing swing motor system is being developed and will be offered as an optional feature.
How do you retract the wings?
Wings will be unlatched from flight mode and retracted manually and locked into place for ground operation. As above, an electromechanical motor system is being developed as an option for the Samson Motors Switchblade.
What instrumentation will be provided?
While subject to revision, we are planning a pair of Multi-Function Displays (MFD’s) that shifts from ground instrument display, plus rear view monitor, to the flight instrument and moving map/GPS. A Nav/Com radio, transponder, and an audio panel round out the aviation instruments. A portable GPS, the Garmin Aera 560, would add a third back-up in flight instruments as well as provide ground GPS and a digital sound system for entertainment.
What performance can be expected of the vehicle?
See Vehicle Preliminary Specifications under the Vehicles pull-down tab for update vehicle specifications. The Switchblade has a power-to-weight ratio equivalent to that of a Ferrari California, so ground performance should be excellent. Air speeds up to 200 mph are anticipated, which will be verified by actual flight of our prototype.
What will takeoff be like?
Takeoff roll is ~1,100 feet. Once ground speed exceeds 80 mph, the vehicle should begin to lift off by itself. This is similar to a B-52 bomber, which does not rotate on take-off. A slight pull-back on the wheel brings the vehicle upwards, followed by a climb of ~ 1,800 feet per minute.
What fuel is used?
Unleaded or premium automotive gasoline for our first models. We have already finished layouts for both hybrid, and electric drive systems pending on an appropriate battery solution.