(CBS SF) — The flying car is coming, and it will likely be built right here in Northern California from two companies competing to put you in the pilot’s seat: Auburn-based Samson Motors, and ICON Aircraft, which manufacturing planned for Vacaville.
Over the weekend, ICON flew its first working prototype of the amphibious and trailerable A5 at the flagship EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Samson Motorworks has been testing its tricycle-plane hybrid for years, and isn’t far behind.
Both companies take advantage of lightweight composite materials that didn’t exist when the Jetsons creators made the concept of a flying car every kid’s dream, and they capitalize on new FAA rules making “sport planes” less regulated, and sports pilot licenses easier to get.
The ICON A5 is not exactly a flying car, but it does have wings that fold up, letting you tow it on a trailer, and it can take off and land on water. The Samson Switchblade is more truly a flying sportscar, or flying motorcycle, but the company is still testing the driving unit, and is manufacturing prototype airframe parts to minimize weight and get a working model off the ground within the next six months. Samson expects to sell them for $95,000. The ICON starts at $189,000. Both would be very reasonably priced for airplanes. Both can easily fit into your garage.
The ICON A5 took five months to build using the production design, production tools, and production methods that will be used for a fleet of the planes. It will still require FAA approval before customers can take delivering in May of 2015.
ICON will build up to 500 aircraft a year in a 140-thousand square foot facility along Interstate 80 in Vacaville, although the three existing planes came from the Tehachapi operation.
“This is one of the most significant milestones to date for ICON. It represents the culmination of years of research, design, engineering, and manufacturing dedication by an outstanding team,” said ICON Aircraft Founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins.
“The A5’s development has been a massive undertaking,” said ICON VP of Engineering and CTO Matthew Gionta. “The amount of intellectual horsepower and years of relentless commitment that has gone into this aircraft is impressive.”
It took 1600 unique components, and thousands of hours of design time.
Videos of the two companies’ planes: