Flying car gets smooth landing in Charlotte County

December 11th, 2019



Commissioners support incentives for Oregon startup company to come here

PORT CHARLOTTE — Charlotte County isn’t playing hard to get when it comes to flying cars.  “Let’s stop dancing around. Come to Charlotte County. This is where you belong,” Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said to the founder of Samson Motors Inc., Sam Bousfield on Tuesday.  With that, commissioners voted unanimously to offer the Oregon startup company up to $100,500 in employment incentives for higher wage jobs created after building a production-scale factory here. They would get $1,000 for each job paying for a year at least $36,423 and $1,500 for at least $41,886.

Samson makes a three wheeled flying car it calls the Switchblade — so named for how its wings fold under the vehicle like blades after it lands. It is also considering locations in Texas, Oregon, Nevada and Wisconsin.  “There’s a good, strong chance for us to locate here,” Bousfield told the Sun after the meeting.  “This is exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for,” said Commissioner Chris Constance.  Samson has also applied for a similar incentive from the state, which would offer $4,000 for each higher wage job created and sustained. Samson expects to hire 67 people over seven years, with an average wage of $55,000. This is 50% higher than the county average.  What’s the maximum range and speed, Commissioner Ken Doherty asked?  The range is 450 miles or 2 ½ hours in the air, said Bousfield, which is about 200 mph. On the ground, the three-wheeled car can go 123-130 mph, if you find a place to drive that fast. It’s like a 2017 Corvette, he said.

Sampson has been working on the Switchblade for about 10 years. Bousfield told commissioners he thought his invention was slow to develop until he saw that all the other realistic plane-cars were taking about the same time in design and production.  Today, the Switchblade has 10 to 20 times the advance reservations of other flying cars, he said, none of which are for sale yet.

Switchblade’s first test flight keeps getting postponed. That’s not because it’s not flightworthy, Bousfield told the Sun. That’s because they only want to air test a vehicle they expect to mass produce. Other companies have taken the quick path to the test flight, he said, but have not developed a realistic product.

The closest out there to the Switchblade is the PAL-V made by a Dutch company, Bousfield told the Sun. It’s a slower vehicle called a gyrocopter that uses a kind of rotor blade, but it doesn’t take off like a helicopter. The Switchblade will be more of a performance vehicle than the PAL-V, he said with a similar price.  Switchblade will start at about $120,000, if you build 51% of it yourself.  You can do that on site at the factory.

Pilot and entrepreneur Alex Rodriguez was a newcomer to Charlotte County — who recommended this location to Bousfield.  Rodriguez and Bousfield are working together to market the Switchblade.  Bousfield thinks the Switchblade will introduce a safer way of personal flying for many reasons, including the fact that a pilot can land and drive under bad weather. Also, he said, take off and landing could end up being safer than in other small planes, in part because cars have bigger wheels and brakes.