Switchblade Flying Motorcycle - Spy vs Sky

Formerly known as the SkyBike, Samson Motorworks has redesigned its their motorcycle flyer into the scissor-winged Switchblade.
switchblade motorcycle
image courtesy of Samson Motorworks
by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: 2-seat flying motorcycle
  • Class: Motorcycle / Light sport aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Samson Motorworks
  • Dimensions: 15'6" x 5'6" x 5'1"
  • Propulsion system: 120 hp Freedom Motor twin rotor
  • Top Speed: 90 mph (ground) 134 mph (air)
  • Drive range: 880 miles
  • Flight range: 340 miles
  • Operational ceiling: 10,000 ft
  • Fuel(s): Conventional gasoline
  • Fuel efficiency: 60 mpg (ground), 22 mpg (air)
  • Fuel capacity: 16 gallons
  • Tailpipe emissions: Yes
  • Price: NA
  • Availability: Fourth quarter 2009

The manufacturer says

"Side-by-side seating, more range, less weight, slower landing speed, room for golf clubs, and a wide cabin. The Switchblade has it all!"

Overview

Formerly known as the SkyBike and formerly designed with telescoping wings, Samson Motorworks has taken cues from (so they say) Ferrari and Mazeratti, redesigning and rebranding their motorcycle flyer into the scissor-winged Switchblade.

Said to be the first in a new line of Multi Mode Vehicles (MMV) from Samson Motorworks, the Switchblade is long on promises, big on daydreams, and short on verifiable testing or other real-world details. Web-wide whispers of vaporware don't seem unwarranted.

What we like

The standard features. Of the dozens of features that come standard with the Switchblade, I can dig the following, even if I can't find additional information about them:

  • Emergency location transmitter (sounds like a black box?)
  • Lightning protection (using what?)
  • Ballistic chute recovery system (just glad to see the word 'chute')

The design. The Switchblade too looks so clearly inspired by the legendary Cold War miscreants in the Mad magazine comic Spy vs Spy I can't take it! The question is, will anyone at Samson ever admit it?

switchblade bike

The license requirements. In order to get the Switchblade airborne, you need a sport pilot license. Additionally, Samson brings up an interesting point in their FAQ: the question is whether you can buy a Switchblade if you aren't a pilot, and their answer is, "If you purchase a flying model, the flight controls and wing lock will require a physical and electronic key that is granted once proof of appropriate pilot license is shown." While this seems a bit optimistic, it got me wondering whether future flying car companies intend to put this kind of thing in place.

What we don’t

The windshield wiper. Or lack thereof, actually. Regarding this absence, Samson says, "The front windshield is greatly curved, allowing the wind-stream to remove rain/snow. A special coating is applied to the glazing to increase beading." I don't buy it.

The push-button take-off. Take-off in the Switchblade is achieved through acceleration powered by the rear wheels; once the proper take-off speed is reached, "the power take off button is pushed, putting power to the ducted fan." A button? "Take off roll should be fairly short, with brisk acceleration on the ground, followed by a more leisurely climb."

Conclusions

Referring to the SkyBike, Samson CEO Sam Bousfield said in a press release that they were "homing in on the Holy Grail for vehicles: Outstanding performance, style, and fuel efficiency, along with low emissions and undeniable flexibility." I don't think the Switchblade takes them all that much closer to that holiness, in part because I just don't see the company addressing, with any detail, how the Switchblade will actually function according to flight dynamics.

However, Samson's similarly Spy vs Spy inspired 70 mpg Hybrid Aerobike, a vehicle said to be in the pipeline, offers a bit more in that direction.

In an email to me, Mr. Bousfield said that their hybrid models will be series hybrids, adding "We feel this is more appropriate for a lower volume product start-up such as ours. It also aligns more technology-wise with all-electric, which is our goal. The hybrid will tilt on the ground, and potentially use our patent pending aerodynamic tilt, which allows one to 'fly' the vehicle through the curves."

Seductive copy, for sure. And it touts technology a bit more promising and reasonable than the Switchblade.

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