Traffic Problems? Try a Flying Motorcycle
04 Jun, 2009
Imagine this: You’re running late for a meeting in another town, you’ve just heard that the expressway you need to take is jammed to parking-lot status, and you know that surface streets are simply not an option for such a long trip.
No problem. You jump into your Samson Motorworks SkyBike, ride a short distance to the municipal airport, then zip down the runway and into the air. You fly the distance to the airport in your destination town, land, and cruise on over to your meeting… for which you are actually early.
Yes, this is a future vision, but one that will, in the next few years, become a solid reality.
Part motorcycle, part airplane, and featuring a revolutionary and streamlined design, the SkyBike is an enclosed three-wheeled vehicle that comes fully equipped with extendable wings for flight. Standard features include heating and air conditioning, a sound system, a digital instrument panel that automatically changes from ground to flight instruments, and many of the amenities you expect in a four-wheeled land-only vehicle.
The man behind this vision is Samson Motorworks president Sam Bousfield, an inventor who previously had considerable experience in aeronautical research with, among others, a group of elite Boeing engineers. The majority of his work dealt in high-speed aircraft—but one day he had a different idea. “I decided what aviation needed the most was something kind of on the low, slow end of speed, something that would get more people interested in aviation, and get point-to-point transportation being used in a way that would help overall,” Bousfield said. “Right now we’ve got all kinds of freeway congestion. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get in and out of our major cities, and this way we can just bypass all that. Rather than spending some significant portions of time sitting in traffic, you simply go where you want to go and you’re done.”
At the same time, Bousfield wanted to ensure such vehicles would be environmentally friendly. Interestingly, while there are plentiful air-quality restrictions on land vehicles, there are none for aircraft—hence environmentally friendly aircraft engines were nonexistent. “We’re planning on hybrid technology or full electric, but we’re starting with internal combustion because it’s really difficult to make something fly on a completely new vehicle model and a completely new engine or drivetrain. So we went with a proven engine and are putting the engineering effort into getting it where we want it.”
The first production model available to the public will be a kit model (assembled by the owner) tentatively named the Switchblade. The name comes from the fact that the wings swing out from (or into) the body, depending on land or air mode. It will also have an extendable tail. The kit is expected for release sometime in 2010, and the price (likely to be between $65,000 and $75,000) will include a short training course for the owner.
“We want to not only make transportation fun but get people more interested in being off the ground,” Bousfield concluded. “It’s really fun to be in the air. It’s a truly different and unique point of view. For instance, I live in Meadow Vista near Auburn, California. About half an hour’s flight away is a great little place called Grover Hot Springs. I like to go there and relax in the pools. It’s up in the mountains a little bit, but it’s really pretty. It takes two and a half hours to get there driving. But if I had a Switchblade I could be there in a half hour, enjoy the benefits of the day without all that driving time and all that gas, and I’d still get a great view out of the thing. It’s not like you’re bypassing the beauty of the mountains—it’s that you’re going straight there instead of taking the circuitous route. It’s a brand-new method, a point-to-point transportation system with which you can avoid the left, right, left, right, right, left, left, left, right, and end up using a lot less energy and a lot less time. And I think that’s what I’d like to see out of the future.”
For more information on Samson Motorworks and their products, please visit www.samsonmotorworks.com.