After 14 years in development, the world’s first three-wheel flying sports car – the Switchblade – has finally been given approval to start flight testing.
Created by Samson Sky, the prototype vehicle can fly at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 km per hour) and is designed to be built from a DIY kit.
While on the ground, the Switchblade taxis on its three wheels and, at only 16.8 feet (5.1 m) in length and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide, is small enough to fit in a garage.
But once it reaches an airport, its wings swing out and tail extends in less than three minutes, allowing the ‘skybrid’ vehicle to take to the skies.
Last month, the Switchblade received the rubber stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US government aviation authority, to begin the testing process.
Sam Bousfield, the CEO of Samson Sky and Switchblade designer, said: ‘Our take-off speed is predicted to be 88 mph, meaning that’s the speed we need to hit, at which point the Switchblade would begin to lift off the ground.
‘Out of the fastest of 10 speed runs, our test driver took the Switchblade to 98 mph, which confirmed what the team saw on the instruments, videos and engine computer data – the Switchblade handled and performed very well.’
The Switchblade can now undergo a series of trials, starting with high-speed taxi testing and leading up to in-the-air flight testing.
According to the Oregon-based company, 2,100 people from 52 countries and all 50 states of America have already reserved a vehicle kit for when it is finally approved to go on sale.
Samson Sky say: ‘Early adopters include NASA engineers, airline pilots, entrepreneurs, etc.
‘The recent FAA approval has attracted 360 new reservations in just the past few weeks – and it’s notable that 58 per cent of them are not yet pilots.’
A driver’s license will be required to take the Switchblade on the road, and a pilot’s license necessary for flying it, which must be done from a public or private airport.
This is different to vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles, which can take off from the road.
The purchaser is required to build 51 per cent of their vehicle after purchasing the kit, as the FAA class the aircraft in the ‘Experimental / Homebuilt’ category.
Each Switchblade Kit will cost around $170,000 and include the engine, transmission, avionics, interiors and access to the Samson Builder Assist Program.
The latter allows the builder to visit a Samson Builder Assist Center to get help with construction, which would take about a week.
The maximum driving speed of the Switchblade is over 125 miles per hour (201 km per hour), and Samson Sky claims it ‘drives nimbly through winding curves as a high-performance sports car’.
But when it takes to the skies it can soar at up to 200 miles per hour (305 km per hour), reaching an altitude of 13,000 feet (4 km).
It is also able to cover 450 miles (724 km) before its 113-litre fuel tank needs refilling.
Once it lands, it can quickly change back into driving mode with the wings and tail safely stowed away until the pilot reaches their final destination.
The Waterman Arrowbile might be considered the first flying car in 1937. If flying cars become really available, it will be mainly a triumph of lawyers fighting regulations, not mechanics building yet another air/land vehicle.