Samson Motorworks has been working on a flying motorcycle, the Switchblade, for two and a half years. The three-wheel motorcycle’s design features three lifting surfaces, like the Piaggio Avanti, and side-by-side seating for two people. “These are actually pretty exciting times for us,” Sam Bousfield, CEO of Samson Motorworks, said at Sun ’n Fun. “In the last two months we’ve seen options that reduce our weight by 200 pounds and increase the range by 50 nautical miles.”
A swinging wing has replaced the design’s original telescoping wing. “They convinced me it could be done, and it provided a lot of benefit,” Bousfield said, citing reduced maintenance, weight savings, and range increase. “On the ground, the wings are tucked in and protected.” The wings will fold beneath the motorcycle’s body; clamshell doors and a steel keel will protect them from “road rash” and unseen speed bumps, he added.
The company plans to complete a prototype in time to display it at the Oshkosh air show July 27 through August 2, and then begin constructing a flying prototype that Bousfield hopes will take to the air early next year. “We lost some time with the switch from the swing wing to the telescoping wing,” he said.
Why a flying motorcycle? “The motorcycle manufacturing regulations are a lot simpler, and reflect aviation more than automotive [regulations],” he said. “We don’t have to meet automobile safety standards, because we’re a motorcycle—[although] we do anticipate a front crumple zone.” A desire to grow aviation is another motivation. “I wanted to bring in new pilots to aviation,” Bousfield explained. “If we don’t do that, we’re missing out on our future. We want to expand the usefulness of aviation and reduce the cost of flying.” To attract newcomers, the interior will include air conditioning and a sound system.
The Switchblade is “one smoking little vehicle,” Bousfield said. It is expected to have the power-to-weight ratio of a Ferrari Testarossa, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. He anticipates a range of 300 nm, cruise speed of 128 knots, maximum speed of 168 knots, and stall speed of 61 knots, with an ability to carry 400 pounds of passengers and 50 pounds of luggage. Anticipated takeoff distance is 500 feet or less.
It will be certified as an experimental homebuilt aircraft; Bousfield said the company might seek experimental light sport aircraft certification at some point, although most customers want higher speeds than ELSA would allow.
Engineers are working to reduce its weight of 1,400 pounds. The company hopes to use a 120-horsepower rotary engine from the United Kingdom if it’s certified in time; otherwise, several motorcycle and aircraft conversion engines would work, Bousfield noted. Rudder control has not been determined, but may be accomplished with hat switches on the control wheel. Cameras will provide visibility to the rear, and an optional ballistic parachute will be offered.