Tom Haines

Flying motorcycle the next roadable airplane?

November 25, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Speaking of Holy Grail (see my earlier post–hey, you gotta keep up here!), Samson Motorworks claims it has the utmost in roadable aircraft with its new SkyBike. The SkyBike is a three-wheeled, two-seat motorcycle with a telescoping main wing and a canard. Powered by a shrouded single propeller driven by a rotary engine, the vehicle will supposedly fly at 130 mph–although it hasn’t flown yet.

The company is developing several models of the vehicle. The SkyBike is the kitbuilt version and due out first, although exactly when isn’t clear. The SwitchBlade will be the FAA-certified version. The SkyBike prototype is under development at Swift Engineering in San Clemente, California.

The idea is that you drive the vehicle like a motorcycle to the airport. There, you extend the telescoping wings and takeoff. At takeoff, the flat panel instrument display transitions from automotive instruments to aviation instruments.

SkyBike is the brainchild of inventor Sam Bousfield. He claims the canard layout, with main wing in the back, serves a dual purpose. For safe ground design and to reduce the potential for overturning, the center of weight is kept low and to the rear. Having a main rear wing places most of the lift where the majority of the weight is located, complimenting safety on the ground with safety in the air. Additionally, a canard is also stall-resistant, affording an added margin of protection.

The company offers an email newsletter through its site for those who want to follow the project throughout development.

So, what’s your pleasure? Terrafugia’s Transition or Samson’s SkyBike?

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66 Responses to “Flying motorcycle the next roadable airplane?”

  1. Kevin R.C. O'Brien Says:

    Tom,

    these things come out like clockwork… Some guy gets 3-D rendering software and is going to revolutionize flight. Here’s one dead give-away: “The company is developing several models of the vehicle”.

    Yep. Remember the DreamWings Valkyrie? It was a single twin land seaplane ultralight that was going to do 170 kt. It had a lot of good computer renderings, a mockup, and a prototype that was about 800% overweight and flew like an anvil.

    Along with more of these renderments than you can shake a stick at (like this: http://www.sparkdesign.nl/en/project/PALV), and of course the Moller Skycar, America’s longest running… er… “investment opportunity”… there’s actually a flying motorcycle already, that actually flies and drives, Larry Neal’s Super Sky Cycle.

    As far as Mr Bousfield is concerned, I don’t wish him ill. but I don’t take him seriously either until he’s got an actual flying machine with the test time flown off. And you probably shouldn’t, either!

    EAA, the other indispensable aviation organisation, used to require aircraft to have actually demonstrated the qualities claimed, before they would accept advertising with those qualities. Experience tells me that this is a good and prudent policy.

    I have almost a thousand experimental aircraft press packets here – several file cabs worth. I haven’t catalogued them all, but I would estimate that probably only forty of those craft are still available. Oddly enough, including Neal’s Sky Cycle, which is a roadable gyroplane.

    Sorry to go all skeptical on you.

  2. Louie Fonosch Says:

    After bulding a B.D 5 in 1973 a Samson Sky Bike would be my dream project ride the bike and fly the plane it does not get any beter. Il buy one

  3. KEN CHIDESTER Says:

    I LIKE IT, GOOD LUCK.

  4. Scott Walker Says:

    Where’s the vertical stabilizer(s)/rudder(s)? How do you telescope the wing control surfaces?

  5. marc Arnold Says:

    Looks like vectored thrust for yaw control, perhaps.

  6. joe grimes Says:

    This looks doable. I can imagine actually driving this to a client’s office. It will be interesting to see what happens with a “fender bender”.

  7. M. W. Collier Says:

    Count me out on this one!

  8. M. W. Collier Says:

    Count me out on this one

  9. James Garner Says:

    I wonder if they can make it with a Harley V-Twin; can you image how cool it would be to ride/fly with the awsome Harely sound?

  10. Victor Says:

    I’ll take the one that actually flies.

  11. Brian Patterson Says:

    Will be a must have part of the next Bond film. Surrounded by pursueing bad guys he streaks over the clifts edge and as he plumetts toward the sea spreads the wings and flies away, perhaps returning to shoot up the bad guys on the way out. Could be chased by helios which he also deftly destroys…..

    In all likelhood another dream that won’t work. But it’s dreams that like this that the Wright Brothers had…needs a tail….or vertical stab and rudder at least…

  12. Del Angelo Says:

    Let’s go! My pilot son wants one and my son-in-law is very interested…and of course. I want mine, too.

  13. Edward E. Hodapp Says:

    I am a ATP CFII and my Fl drivers license has motorcycle also – do you need a test pilot? Hope it is affordable – Best of luck with it – Looks like a great idea – Ed Hodapp

  14. Don Wilfong Says:

    HEY………DON’T COUNT THESE GUYS OUT…….IT WAS DREAMS LIKE THIS THAT PUT US ON THE MOON………GOOD LUCK FELLOWS……..TECHNOLOGY WILL BE THE EASY PART.. THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE THE HARD PART…..

  15. Edward Ricks Says:

    I have been active in the Light Sport Aircraft for over four years and presently selling the Jabiru Aircraft in the Western USA for the company. I am impressed with your design with the canard and would like to be put on your e-mail list. There is a place for your airplane and I think you will create vast amount of excitement when you fly the prototype for the first time. Good luck on your progress.

    Edward F. Ricks
    Owner
    Sport Plane Dynamics
    4531 W. Myrtle Ave.
    Glendale, AZ 85301
    623-695-9040 cell

  16. Dieter Bibbig Says:

    Traffic jam ahead, some room left for take off?…….Going to flying mode! Back pressure, no more speed limit! We have dreamed about that! Flying along, WX ahead, Or an obscured mountain pass, continue on Hi-way that might be less crowded in the furure anyway.

  17. Mike Hamel Says:

    As a pilot and a (sport) biker, I love it. That said, it is difficult to achieve good performance in both realms. I would hope they provide more yaw control than the concept images would seem to have. I would not want to find myself in a flat spin in that thing.

    I wish them luck, especially these day$.

  18. martin swanty Says:

    Wow !!! I’m a pilot and I love this one keep the information coming– Marty

  19. Mick Fincher Says:

    Looks a lot more do-able than the Moller M4. Let’s hope it doesn’t go the same way.(I guess roll control could be achieved by warping each segment of the telescoping wing in increments. Just a thought.)

  20. Vinny Says:

    Can one ride bitch on this?

  21. james lopez Says:

    it looks great.. but one can only imagine if if it went into production..only for the rich..i have heard about this type a/c all my life it seems (i’m 63)…..dont laugh..but it seems after it flies and the maker proves a point..the project never seems to get of the ground !!! .. i am still happy with my Cessna 150..

  22. Tom Barton Says:

    Please hurry! I’m 68 and the “long term” is getting shorter.

  23. tom elliott Says:

    sign me up 56 years as a pilot, i’m ready for something new

  24. Bill Adams Says:

    Looks alot like the Falcon Ultralight I flew years ago. Tell me when and where I can buy!!

  25. Bill Frey Says:

    I can see these things in the hands of the Idots on the 405 near LAX at 5:PM or 7AM.

  26. Steve Weaver Says:

    Since I was a kid in grade school and visited the Ford Rotunda I dreamed of owning a vehicle that was a reasonable car and a reasonable aircraft all in one vehicle.

    If the engineering / handling qualities are sound and forgiving both on the ground and in the air it is a dream come true. I flew for the first time in a Light Sport Aircraft two days ago. The experience was like flying a 152 on steroids. It was impressive, glass panel an all. If this vehicle can be brought to market for nearly the same price, I want one. Now you can afford one, car and airplane one price.
    When you have your FAA certification take it to Oshkosh, EAA Air Venture. Don’t make the same mistake the rest have made bringing it to market. If you do, early on, don’t offer it for sale. Fly it at OSH and let people dream. I wish you all the luck that can be offered.
    I am a CFII, will I have to be a cycle instructor too? No bike experience. Or is it a fuel efficient car with wings? Steve

  27. Dr.Abdollah Gilani Says:

    A fantastic idea long overdue!

  28. CJ Glasser Says:

    WOW! I’ve waited all my life for something like this. I have a Harley Sportster, Harley/Lehmans trike & a Cessna 150. Can you imagine my enthusiasm? I wish you luck & can hardly wait to see this on the market!

  29. Wes Says:

    Finally, a design I can get behind… pun intended!

    The commute to and from the grandkids may finally become the best part of the trip… well, at least as much fun.

    I just hope that it also has some range and a decent payload left when it’s done. If it can’t do at least 400 to 500 miles, I don’t see the point in continuing.

    Wes

    http://www.DigitalScrapbookTraining.com

  30. Newt Robbins Says:

    Great idea! At 81 yrs. hope it comes soon so I can fly it, Lots of technology in aviation since 1944.

  31. Mark Zimmermann Says:

    Can you retract the wings on landing and just forgo the trip home from the airport? :-)

  32. Mike Roebuck Says:

    This looke like a more doable idea than any I have seen so far. One of the problems with a car and airplane designs it that the ride home from the airport home is the maos dangerous part of flying. I would sure hate to lose my car and airplane at the same time.

    For the guy who wants it to sound like a Harley just pull a plug wire off affter you land.

  33. Jack Kemp Says:

    Count me in on this one

  34. Bill Allen Says:

    What’s the aerodynamic equivalent of the computing term “vapourware”? A mockup and some CGI on a website don’t make it so…..

  35. Robert Hoge Says:

    Looks like fun. I have been building MINI-MAX for the last ten years or so.(two house moves, a minor stroke, and the death of a spouse can really slow down a project!) My latest projects have been the restoration of a couple of Antique motorcycles, so you know that this little “Toy” really made my imagination take off. As for the fellow who thought a “Harley engine would be ‘cool’ I would only add that the Harley has one heavy engine… The rotary currently in the design would likely be the better way to go. BTW: As to the cool sound of the Harley, if you get two of them idling side by side they sound just like an old flat four Volkswagen.

  36. Mark Richardson Says:

    What a fantastic design! I hope you guys can actually make this happen. I would sell my convertible and motorcycle to purchase one of these, as long as the price isn’t insane. Please don’t make this just another toy for the rich.

    I also hope that a private pilot rating will be required to operate one of these, to keep the skies safe from the nut-jobs who have a motorcycle endorsement, and think riding wheelies down the freeway are “fun”

    I love the enclosed passenger compartment! Motorcycle riding now safe and warm when it’s wet and cold out! Best of luck with this project.

  37. David X Says:

    No vertical stabilizer or rudder. If it uses vectored thrust, what happens when you lose thrust? I’ll pass on this design.

  38. J A DOYLE Says:

    A MUCH BETTER IDEA IDEA THA A FLYING CAR

    THERE USTA BE PLANS FOR A HILIOCOPTER BASED ON
    A TRIMPH M/C ENG

  39. Ron Dixon Says:

    Unfortunately it is all vaporware. There is nothing about the project that has actually flown in any other airplane. No successfully shrouded propeller, no successfully segmented extending wings (like you old Boy Scout folding cup), no dual rotor engine with 3 gallon per hour fuel burn. Just imagine the prop blast driving this thing around town, which was a problem with the “Bryant road-able airplane of the 1960′s”. Nice dream, but futile.

  40. David H. Says:

    Pie in the sky (pardon the pun) BS like the Mollar car and supersonic BD jet for every man. What ever you do don’t put a deposit on this unless you also are predisposed to believing that the email you just received promising that you will be paid $50 mil if you give your bank account to the Zimbabwe tycoon is true as well.

  41. Gene Olsen Says:

    Wonderful! Is it a two place? Will it qualify as an LSA (light Sport Aircraft)? I’m looking forward to seeing it fly and probably buy one.

  42. JoseRaul Velazquez Says:

    As a Pilot and a Biker: This is the “Air Vehicle” that I’ve been waiting for…. “GREAT INVENTION”,
    Now,,,remember to make it “AFFORDABLE”.. ***BY THE WAY;; DO YOU HAVE THE “TEST PILOTS” FOR IT??

  43. Bruce Konditi Says:

    Rigid Airplane wings are strong enough. Unless this thing is made out of next-generation carbon nano tube technology them wings are gonna fly off that thing faster than test-pilot no1 can pull his ripcord.
    Pleease prove me wrong though, and let it both fly AND cost under 2 Gazillion dollars.

  44. Michael Kang Says:

    Way to go ! Hey let’s not to be too technical here. They must know how an airplane works and probably have some plan for the lack of the rudder. Yes, it is too obvious it would be challenging to fly without it but it can be done. Thrust vectors or other means are exsited for long time. A warped wing ? I would not like it myself. Being a pilot and a avid motorcycle driver, I whole-heartedly welcome this new venture. Hope they are successful in this endeavor and I would be enjoying in or on one of this final product in the near future. I have decided to live up to 150 years. My decision to live long is very handy thing in this case.

  45. Todd Bevins Says:

    Looks very cool. I noticed on there web site they did not publish the gph for there engines. From a pilots perspective it gives the impression that the manufacture is slanted to motorcycles rather then airplanes. I think it is a great idea, but have my doubts that we will ever see it come to fruition. This is not necessarily a reflection on the company, but more so of the litigious society we live in where no one can take responsibility for there own actions; someone else is always to blame. Had this environment thrived as it does today 100 years ago, the Wright brothers would have been sued out of business long before they were successful in showing the world what was possible. I wish them all the best luck.

  46. M Says:

    Looks cool. I wish them luck, but expect this to go the way of the electric car.
    This country couldn’t manage a REAL electric car (after so many decades of false promises) that 1) doesn’t run mostly on a gas engine, 2) sells as the de-facto mainstream car, 3) that will look financially sound, now that the oil-dealers have made gas cheap again to maintain our gas addiction, 4) will get financial backing now that our car makers are going bust from all the corrupt/mishandled money management, 5) have batteries or fuel cells that are cost effective, and 6) be taken seriously rather than be the cause du jour!
    It’s less likely we’ll have a true flying-mobile of any kind, and Swift will disappear as fast as it’s funding – given today’s economy. It’s too frivolous a venture for the GA crowd; but will get some interest in kit-form from the fringe (wealthier ne’er do wells) pilots among us.
    Again, it looks cool like the Eze-variants, but will be just as ubiquitous (just about every completed Eze can be seen in a small field at Airventure among many square miles of “regular” aircraft).
    Ahhh, one can still dream.

  47. Art Bianconi Says:

    Having been a pilot, a biker and a builder for over 40 years, as well as a mechanical designer with canard and composite experience, the concept is an idea whose time has come. There is no reason why this machine can’t be built, ridden and flown as described, especially if made from pre-molded composites.

    As shown however, it lacks the turn stability needed to be viable as a road machine.

    It does not have the track width and stability of Trikes but prevents the rider from banking the machine, a necessary characteristic of two wheeled motorcycles. I’d be inclined to either widen the track to almost twice it’s present width or make it a true two wheeler with retractable outriggers.

    Secondly the placement of the engine and payload automatically places the CG aft and the center of aerodynamic pressure forward. This kind of spatial relationship between these two properties makes for yaw instability and was, I suspect, the reason Burt Rutan chose to sweep the wings so dramatically on the Vari and Long Ez. That sweep wasn’t just to look cool.

    The only real design and fabrication challenge I see is the successful deployment of those telescoping wings.

    With no main spar continuity with which to distribute the loads and the complexity of fixturing a skin that is neither skeletal nor monocoque, someone is going to loose a lot of sleep making that structurally safe .

    But, given time, a serious commitment to success and the resources, it’s do-able.

  48. Ke n Leonard Says:

    Announcing a flying vehicle before the prototype has actually flown is the kiss of death. No lateral control, not enough wing area. Very complex wing structure (heavy). Very complex control surfaces (heavy). Inefficient shrouded prop that is very limited in diameter (inefficient for slow speed aircraft which this is). I’d LOVE a flying motorcycle and have thought about what would be needed to do it, but I do not believe this will be stable enough to be sold. Besides, we all know what we really want is to transition from flying to highway without the airport and to do so the takeoff & landing speeds need to be in the 40-50s, not 70-90s. This tiny wing and a canard design both require very high takeoff speed.

  49. Ty Says:

    The numbers are not adding up. And you cannot improve flying mileage with a hybrid engine in the air. Lots of dreaming here, not enough engineering.

  50. Dave Keach Says:

    Reminiscent of a bad date: Waving arms, legs in tight, not enough tail.

  51. Vern Wagner, MD Says:

    As a pilot since age 17, and an Air Force vet with 230 combat sorties, I can’t imagine the concept being airworthy as shown. It’s a grand idea that needs some serious tweaking, IMHO. Count me out for initial flight tests, however.

  52. Lou Rand Says:

    WOW giving the advancment in aviation in the last few years , From the Wright flyer to the
    cub, ultralight aircraft very light jets, why not . hope it makes it. First test fligh ya, it would be a blast….get the fun back into GA…..

  53. WRThomas Says:

    I’ve been riding since 1968 and flying since 1974.
    I Do not think a good sport bike and a fine aircraft will blend soon.

  54. D.S. Butler Says:

    Somehow I am not sure about a flying motorcycle. I have 4 Harleys and 2 airplanes and even though airplanes might be related to bicycles or motorcycles, i am a bit leary about mixing the two together. Motorcycles have the inherent quality of busting your fanny even more so than a airplane , if you don’t respect it. So! If you mix the two does this mean that this kind of machine will kick your fanny if you get a little careless with it ,or do you just jump over a traffic jam like Superman. I guess we will have to see what happens when these machine gets on the road or in the air.

  55. Dan H (Orlando) Says:

    Technological advances are primarily driven by two factors…..necessity and desire (and, oftentimes, both at the same time). Whether it be teflon, gortex, nano-tubes, floating cities, artificial hearts, genetics or the like, humans will always push the envelop in every area of life. I applaud the efforts of the company to do exactly that…..whether successful, partially successful, or massive failure….Sampson Motorworks’ desire to build this machine shows commitment and desire. And, as we all can agree, the necessity of resolving transportation issues makes this project all the more exciting. The company’s efforts to raise capital, invest time, energy and funds in the concept, design and (hopefully) the build of the SkyBike is what we, as Americans, are all about.

    This is not a risk-free venture…..but neither was the “X-series” projects of the 40s, 50s & 60s. We earned much from the work of those aviation pioneers in the Mojave Desert and we continue to learn much from today’s risk-taking pioneers. I say, lets put our collective head together and assist in the development of this SkyBike and other aviation dreams (personally, I’m waiting for this first generation of VLJs to hit the used aircraft market so I can live my dream).

    Good luck and godspeed!

  56. Skymaster Says:

    Looks good to me I could see a problem with
    one flying up in front of you from a country road
    but good luck anyway

  57. Roy Dees Says:

    In order to retrtact the wings you would have to leave out the ribs. What is going to main-
    tain the shape of the airfoil? Thicker wing skins?

  58. Chris O Says:

    What I need to know is can my license plate be my N-number? And will that suffice for both the feds and troopers? If so, I may be tempted to move to a one-plate state to avoid the extra drag.

  59. Mark Says:

    A Flying Motorcycle, Its been done.

    Here is one that flys and drives today.

    LINK
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fzUPMpsLl4

    http://www.thebutterflyllc.com/

  60. Joe Pilot Says:

    As a CFI/CFII/MEI and CCS road racer I really like the idea, but I dont see how this is really anything like a motorcycle. Its fully enclosed, number one, and it has three wheels, making it a trike, technically, so not a motorcycle at all. Number two, If you have a flying machine with short field takeoff and landing capabilities sufficient enough to get onto and off of the road (presumably thats what they are suggesting) then why drive at all, why not fly everywhere you want to go? Thats what I would do anyway.
    In my estimation, a flying motorcycle would be ideal transportation, but motorcycles are designed, more than any other vehicle, to corner, with wings this would be an impossibility, thus an awkward and dangerous ground vehicle. So to make a motorcycle of the Air would be more logical, not a hybrid of the two.
    If this was designed as an open tandem cockpit, or no cockpit at all, like a jetski, with wings and thrust vectoring for vertical takeoff and landing (preferably with a jet engine), and retractable landing gear, then I could see it as a usable (although highly dangerous) and incredibly fun, form of transportation. As it stands, that design would be incredibly expensive in todays market. It sure is fun to dream though.

  61. Greggory Says:

    Over 25 years ago, I saw a flying motorcycle at 3,000 msl near NAS Pt. Mugu, CA. I had just taken off from Pt. Mugu as was climb out in my LC-130 when I saw the Pilot on his Flying “Hog”. The Flying motorcycle had a fix wing with Ailerons and elevator/horizontal stabilizer welded to the frame of his Harley-Davis Motorcycle.
    Good Luck on getting your SkyBike airborne.

  62. Keith Cameron Says:

    When my Son wanted a pocket knife with all the fancy attachements, I cautioned him “once you ask it to do everything else, it won’t even be a decent knife anymore”. Still, enthralled by the boundless utility he spent his money for all the bells and whistles. One the second day of our next camping trip I noticed he’d gone back to his old “simple” pocket knife. When prodded for an explanation, he conceded that all the fancy bells and whistles really added up to heavy, useless appliance that looked better on the store shelf than it did in the real world. I get the same feeling about the Skybike.

    While I love the “look” of the Skybike, I’d rather see it first as a fully functional fixed wing aircraft. I’t's sleek, sexy and looks like it could be a blast to fly. However, in its current incarnation I see it as great on the shelf, but impractical and most likely wnworkable in the real world.

    The “telescoping” wing looks to be far too leaky a vessel for me to put much hope, not to mention my life into. Something with a bit of history and engineering behind it like a variable geometry wing could prove a more workable solution. All in all, in today’s time of tight money I don’t see the floodgates of VC pouring into this project. And a radio controlled model does not a prototype make. I’ve seen radio controlled Dog houses fly, but I’ve yet to see one go to market.

  63. N952JL Says:

    I find it interesting that there has not been any comments since Jan. The switch blade model was announced in my AOPA newsletter and I’ve been following up. I like the idea. At lest the folding wing, I think the telescoping wing is dead. I would like to see the prototype fly and get some real numbers, then produce a homebuilt kit version. After that is established, get a LSP model into production. Last the higher speed certified version.

    Good luck. If it comes out and looks good, I’ll build another plane. I love my Europa, but I would sell it to build this.

  64. Fem Anvate Says:

    All the Nay-sayers ranting on.
    Truth is, Nay-sayers are usually right.
    Here we are, 2 years down the road
    haven’t heard of a test-flight,
    never saw it at Oshkosh,
    nobody remembers this plane,
    but we’re all hunting down the newest,
    latest plane that will never fly.
    Do yourself a favor and build an RV-9.

  65. beendone Says:

    Itec has built a serious flying car! Theyve driven it thousands of miles and flown it many times as well. Resembles a roadster/sand rail/dune buggy. Tube frame, off road suspension. Its slow in the air ~40mph due to its paraglider wing, but on the ground the zero to sixty is faster than a Lambo! 3.9 sec! Its powered by a subaru 2.5l and weighs just about nothing. Plus…. Its already legal as a kitcar in FL and they have received approval or what ever they need from the FAA to manufacture it as a light sport plane! They figure $80,000 itecusa.org/maverick.html

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