In kindergarten, Sam Bousfield showed his friends pictures of flying cars and told them that one day, they'd exist. Although certainly a visionary at a young age, Bousfield had no idea that he'd be the man to make one.
On the road, the Samson Sky's Switchblade is just an eye-catching sports car. But then two wings and a horizontal stabilizer pop out like a pocket knife – and the car is ready for takeoff.
After 14 years of design and testing, the Switchblade successfully completed its first flight in Moses Lake, Washington last month. The three-wheeled vehicle soared 500 feet above the Grant County Airport for about six minutes, Bousfield told USA TODAY Tuesday.
The team started out with a pre-flight which purposely flew about 15 feet off the ground before Bousfield knew they were ready for the real deal, a moment he would never forget.
"It's almost like time stood still. It just was one of those things where you you're not believing that it's been up there this long," he said. "And you realize, oh, it's not been that long. It's only been six minutes, but I can't believe that."
With Switchblade you're never really stopped
The sports car can reach speeds of 125 mph on the ground and Bousfield said the Redmond, Oregon-based manufacturer plans for it to fly 190 mph in the sky. During the design process it was crucial for the vehicle to operate at high performance whether it's in the sky or on the ground.
"There's this idea out there in society that to get a flying car, it has to be a mediocre car or a mediocre plane or both and we just disagree with that idea," Bousfield said.
A ride on the Switchblade is far more than a way to get from one place to another. Bousfield said the journey will transcend the destination. What drivers see on the ground is often not exciting, but reaching thousands of feet above ground completely revamps the view. Not to mention with a flying car, you're never really stopped.
"I can drive into San Francisco and have dinner or a business meeting. And as the fog settles as it often does, I can drive up from under that and fly the rest of the way home," Bousfield added. "If you're going across country and South Dakota is just miles, miles and miles of road construction, you just pop up in the air and just fly right over the top and don't even worry about it."
Where is parking most expensive? New study shows cheapest, priciest US cities to park in
At least two years away from production
While that all sounds amazing, it's going to be a while before consumers can get their own Switchblade vehicle, Bousfield said. Samson Sky is at least two years away from mass production.
The company spent four years developing a new way to make their carbon fiber building materials, with the goal of reducing the price of making them, according to Bousfield.
The manufacturer uses a thermoplastic carbon fiber, only used by Boeing and Airbus, for a heat and pressure process that stamps out the material like sheet metal. This technique reduces the time to make a door part from 6 to 9 hours to just 20 minutes and is non-toxic to humans unlike most carbon materials, Bousfield said.
"And it's fully recyclable. Which the other materials are not. So we have almost zero waste. It's just tremendous," Bousfield said.
However, even with the vehicles being made, there is a significant cost to purchase the product – plus additional cost and training to actually operate one.
How much does a Switchblade cost?
A Switchblade VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Kit, which permit a pilot to fly under clear weather conditions, is estimated to cost about $170,000.
The Switchblade IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) Kit, which allows pilots with the proper instrumentation and approval to fly into clouds and with zero visibility, would cost about $195,000.
How to steer the flying car?
You'll need a driver's license or a motorcycle driver’s license to drive the Switchblade on the ground. But if you hope to head upwards, you'll need a private pilot certificate, which can cost between $7,000 and $8,500 if training with your own plane or $11,000 to $13,000 if leasing your own, according to Samson Sky. The company plans to provide liaisons to help with insurance matters.
What does the inside look like?
From the inside, the Switchblade looks more like a car than a plane but there are extra instrumentals specifically for an aircraft.
Drivers will see a regular gas pedal on the right and a brake in the middle just like most cars. They will also find a throttle by wire, which Bousfield said most cars have these days. When shifting to air mode, you'll steer with rudder pedals and the control wheel operates both the ailerons on the wings and the elevators on the tail like most aircrafts. The wheels are automatically disconnected after takeoff.
Thinking about a new iPhone? Try a factory reset instead to make your old device feel new
Over 2,000 reservations made from all over
Samson Sky has received at least 2,300 reservations to try out the Switchblade. Pending testing, Bousfield said they will send three functioning prototypes to different U.S. cities so nearby people with reservations can check them out.
Bousfield said they already have reservations made from all 50 states and from 57 countries.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Switchblade flying car completes first test flight. What’s next?