The Samson Switchblade has brought a fast, street-legal three-wheeler after 14 years. It converts at the touch of a button into a 200-mph (322-km/h) airplane and has been approved for airworthiness by the FAA. The next step is flight tests.
The Switchblade is named after the knife-like manner in which its wings swing out from beneath its two-seat cabin when it’s time to fly. Samson says the entire push-button conversion from street-legal trike to aircraft is done in less than three minutes.
It runs on a 3-cylinder, 1.6-liter liquid-cooled engine that takes 91-octane pump gas and makes 190 horsepower. This is effectively used as a generator, powering electric wheels in drive mode and an electric prop motor when it’s time to fly. As a three-wheeler, it can be registered as a motorcycle in many areas. According to Samson, it can achieve speeds over 125 mph (201 km/h).
Switchblade’s standard cruise speed is 160 mph (257 km/h) which gives it a range of 450 miles (724 km) to a full 36-gal (125-L) tank of fuel. A 1,100-ft (335-m) runway is required for takeoff and a shorter 700 ft (213 m) for landing. It’ll easily fit in a regular garage once the flight gear is folded away, standing just 5.1 ft (1.5 m) high and occupying a 16.8 x 6-ft (5.1 x 1.8-m) footprint.
There is excitement revolving around this launch as it has been a long wait for the enthusiasts. FAA has given its approval and now it’s cleared to fly. The team has started preparations to get it airborne within the coming weeks.
Starting from an “estimated price” of US$150,000, the Switchblade is a quite expensive machine, but Samson has already taken reservations for the first 1,670 and counting, according to a recent interview with The Hill.
The Switchblade will sell as a kit aircraft, taking somewhere around 2,000 hours to build at home. Samson is bringing a Build Assist Center where owners can come and make use of a “pro build team” and ideal working setup to get their aircraft finished in around a week. At that point, it’s time for a paint job and an FAA inspection for experimental aircraft registration. A visit to the local DMV later, and you should have a license plate for street use.
The company has designed the Switchblade to meet Part 23 standards for full certification as well, so a fully certified version may be available in future.