June 3, 2009 Here we are in 2009 - televisions are thin, phones are smart and robots are on the rise, but still there's that nagging sense of disappointment each time you look outside and realize that cars don't fly. Samson Motorworks hopes to rescue us from this predicament, but realizing the weight and aerodynamic disadvantages of the 4-wheel platform, it has left the car in the garage and embarked on a mission to create a flying 3-wheeled enclosed motorcycle. Two dual-use Multi Mode Vehicles (MMVs) models are in development - the Skybike, which uses a patent pending telescoping wing design, and the Switchblade, which uses a scissor wing design to retract the wings when you swap the airway for the freeway.
The MMVs feature a canard layout, with the main wing at the back and the tailplane at the front. This design keeps the center of weight low and to the rear, reducing the potential for overturning while traveling on the ground and placing most of the lift where the majority of the weight is located, resulting in greater stability while airborne. Additionally, the canard design is also stall resistant, providing an extra level of safety. The company aims to have its designs classified as motorbikes for ground based travel.
The company says both models will an operational ceiling of 10,000-foot above sea level. While both MMVs are small and light, (both are 15’-6” long are less than 6’-4” wide), Samson says the vehicles’ overall size and rugged structure around the occupants is enough to ensure passenger safety and means the SkyBikes are easily spotted by other vehicles in traffic.
Both the Skybike and Switchblade include heating and air conditioning, video rear view monitor, dual ground/air lighting system, automatic vehicle leaning in turns, and stereo CD player with MP3 input for blasting out the Top Gun soundtrack. Safety features include a front impact shock absorber and side impact door protection and - critically - a ballistic chute recovery system.
As dual-purpose vehicles, the engines used in the MMVs are required to have emission controls that aircraft engines do not provide, so all current designs use motorcycle engines and transmissions, modified to provide reverse and power to the propellers. The present pre-production engines have all been tested with results indicating they would pass California ultra-low emission vehicle standards without exhaust treatment.
The standard configuration Switchblade is powered by a 120hp Freedom Motor twin rotor engine that propels the vehicle to over 90 mph on wheels and 134 mph while flying (which still seems a little slow). Running on regular unleaded gasoline and with an estimated fuel efficiency of 60 mpg for ground travel and 22 mpg for air travel, the Switchblade’s 16-gallon fuel capacity should provide a range of 880 miles on the ground 340 miles in the air.
Other standard features include front and rear disc brakes, glass cockpit, dual ground/air lighting system, lightning protection, redundant ignition system, redundant battery system, Navigation radio, ELT (emergency location transmitter), back-up air speed, altimeter and attitude and ballistic chute recovery system. Options include autopilot, XM radio and weather, heated windshield, and secured floor mats.
Samsom Motorworks says the Switchblade will be FAA certified.
In prototype development at Swift Engineering in San Clemente, California, the SkyBike is designed to reach speeds of 80 mph over land or over 130 mph through the air. Standard features include of the SkyBike will include flexible electronic instrument main panel that changes automatically from ground to flight, dual ground/air lighting system, navigation radio, ELT (emergency location transmitter) and not forgetting the comfort factor, leather seating for two plus 50 pounds luggage capacity.
Getting off the Ground
If you’re not a pilot you’ll still be able to buy an MMV, but the flight controls and wing lock will require a physical and electronic key that is granted only once proof of appropriate pilot license is shown. A better option for those without a pilot’s license might be the factory-built, ground only AeroBike.
There isn’t any word on pricing or availability for these flying motorcycles, but Samson Motorworks hopes to have ground versions available in early 2010.
The burning question - do they fly? We eagerly await - leather cap and goggles in hand - a working prototype that can take to the sky.