Considered by many to be pure fantasy, Samson Sky and its innovative founder are turning the idea of a flying car into a reality
It turns out that HG Wells was right, a time machine is entirely possible, but perhaps not quite as the author envisaged it. As the Founder and CEO of flying car company Samson Sky, Sam Bousfield’s vision of such a device began in his childhood, but only really got off the ground 12 years ago in a small Northern California studio in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“I dreamed of it when I was quite young,” says Sam. “I’m sure there were plenty of people who were quick to dismiss my designs and sketches of a flying car as pure imagining, but our dreams are what create the future, which is what we can see all around us.”
Sam has not always been involved in aviation. He started out as an architect in 1979 and, after several years, he began to weave new ideas into the buildings he created. He even had patentable ideas incorporated into some of his most exciting designs. Eventually, he began to create inventions beyond the field of construction, inventions that spilled over into his passion for flight.
As Sam points out, an architect is part artist and part engineer – the perfect combination, it would seem, for designing something as extraordinary as a flying sports car. “I was able to approach the problem from a position beyond that of the aeronautical engineer, and see not only what had been done, or what could be done – but also what should be done,” he explains.
His career in architecture morphed into something new in 2003, when his inventions and designs in the world of aviation began to be taken seriously by industry engineers. Five years and four international scientific papers later, Sam was confident that he could take that childhood dream and make it a reality.
With the full support and help of his wife, Martha, Sam was able to pursue his vision. “It’s a bit unusual to be able to work closely with one’s spouse, and then have a successful home life as well,” he says. “But both of us have a good sense of humour and treat life as a game. I feel that’s helped us navigate some challenging times during the past 12 years of development.
“I started by posing the question: ‘What is the best layout for a vehicle that would both drive and fly?’ Sam continues. “Most people have started out by asking: ‘how do you make a car fly?’ I think that is one of the biggest reasons why we have been so successful.”
Holding true to the goals he’d established, Sam knocked down one challenge after another. The process required both persistence and the building of an extraordinary team to accomplish what had only been dreamed of previously. But his crew has worked tirelessly to produce Sam’s vision – a high-performance car, and a high-performance aircraft in one stunning vehicle. Named the Switchblade after the way the wings swing out from the belly of the vehicle like the blade of a pocketknife, the result delivers the freedom to travel either by air or by road. The Switchblade was first introduced in 2008 at one of the largest airshows in the world, AirVenture, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It became an immediate “must see” of the show, and has since featured in numerous magazines, such as Smithsonian, Scientific American, Forbes and Maxim. It also featured in Robb Report’s Ultimate Gift Guide in December 2017. Samson now has orders in 36 countries and in all 50 US states.
A pilot himself, Sam speaks to the adventurer in us all. “Some of the most amazing views I’ve ever experienced have been from the air, seeing things that most people will never glimpse,” he says. “But I also found that at times I would have liked to drop down from the air to explore some hidden lake or check out an interesting beach.” The Switchblade makes that possible, enabling one to drive or fly in comfort exactly as one chooses.
With the vehicle’s roll-out fast approaching, Sam talks proudly of his unique vision for those with an appetite for the bespoke. “Our Limited Edition vehicles will be among the first to be delivered, and are individually designed and crafted for each client,” he says. “The experience includes donning virtual reality goggles at our Las Vegas Design Studio, which allows one to see the design inside and out, just as it will be once built. From a lifetime of design, I never tire of the process by which designer and client create a true collaboration.”
As Sam explains, a Limited Edition vehicle is a one-of-a-kind design, with a custom interior for each client and a unique exterior, separating the line from the standard Switchblade. No two vehicles will be exactly alike, with enough potential “extras” to satisfy the James Bond in all of us. The only limit to the possibilities, it would seem, is one’s imagination. Well, that and the practicalities of aerodynamics which enable the vehicle to take to the air.
As for a flying car’s ability to act as a time machine, the Switchblade offers the possibility of shrinking a drive or local airline flight of 500 miles from some eight or nine hours to less than half that time. It turns out that there is actually more than one way to control time.