Creating a flying motorcycle | TheUnion.com

Creating a flying motorcycle

For a generation raised on “The Jetsons,” the futuristic paradise embodied by housecleaning robots and personal aircraft has fallen woefully short.

But Sam Bousfield believes that future is right around the corner. In fact, he’s banked his whole career on building a prototype flying motorcycle – the Switchblade Multi-Mode Vehicle.

Bousfield, a fourth-generation Nevada City native, left his private practice as an architect to devote himself full-time to Samson Motors Inc., masterminding the Switchblade MMV from his home in Meadow Vista.

“Personal transportation is people’s concept of the future, and I think that’s accurate,” Bousfield said. “I see it as technically feasible now – and I see (the flying motorcycle) as a step in that direction.”

The Switchblade MMV is designed for dual use as a motorcycle that converts into an airplane. It is classed as a motorcycle because it has three wheels, although it will be fully enclosed in most versions. The MMV, which will be produced in kit form, will be able to carry two people, achieving over 50 MPG on the ground. At the airport, a simple pull of a lever will convert the controls and instruments, extending the retractable wings and transforming the vehicle into a 140 mph aircraft.

“You can back it out of your driveway, drive to the airport and fly to your destination,” said Larry Moore, director of marketing for Samson Motors Inc.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been mechanically included,” said Bousfield, who graduated from Nevada Union High School before pursuing a degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “I could always fix things.”

Bousfield practiced architecture in Seattle before moving back to Nevada City in 1988. For the next six years, Bousfield worked for Tony Rosas, a Nevada City architect, until leaving to start his own firm.

During his training, Bousfield learned to “look at issues as a trained problem-solver – analyzing things to look at what should be.”

And so he began inventing, holding patents that include a type of concrete trowel and a more efficient propeller

“All kinds of people have ideas, but they don’t carry them forward,” he said. “I did.”

He began focusing on aviation because, he said, “that’s where my heart is.”

In 1999, Bousfield invented a new propeller technology and also worked on designing a propeller plane that could break the sound barrier.

But he soon switched directions to focus on personal transportation, noting that trying to break the sound barrier was “fast and fun, but it didn’t handle the real need, which is more pilots.”

Oddly enough, Bousfield does not have a pilot’s license – yet. He is taking lessons from Don Campbell of Sierra Vista Aviation, located at the Auburn Municipal Airport.

“It’s kind of funny,” Bousfield acknowledged. “I always wanted to fly, but I never took the time.”

Learning to fly has improved his ability to “see what’s important to the average Joe Pilot,” he added. “It is giving me a bit of an edge.”

Work on the Switchblade MMV has progressed past the point where Bousfield knows it works from an engineering standpoint, and they have started construction of the first of the prototypes. Initially, the company is building a fixed-wing model and will test that before moving on to a full prototype with retractable wings. In all, the Switchblade MMV will undergo six to eight months of flight testing.

All of this work is privately funded, Bousfield said. He plans to have the Switchblade MMV available in kit form by 2011.

Bousfield said safety concerns should not be an issue, since pilot training is very intensive and the flying motorcycle has to take off and land from an airport. He added that point-to-point transportation, such as that afforded by a flying motorcycle, will use less gas and take less time than driving. And there’s no need for a layman to fear inattentive drivers crashing into each other in the air.

“There’s tons of space in the air – gobs and gobs,” Bousfield said. “We have 100 years to go before we approach gridlock.”

For more information, go online at http://www.samsonmotorworks.com.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call 477-4229.