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By Jane Gleeson
If you’re a fan of the wild blue yonder, this flying marvel might have you headed up, up and away. The ICON A5, produced by California-based ICON Aircraft, is an amphibious Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) that recently began delivering orders to a growing list of customers. Touting top-notch engineering and world-class product design, the A5 has won some of the world’s most prestigious design awards, including the recent 2015 Spark Design Award, which recognizes “design that improves the world.”
The company cites the plane’s ease of use and cost as factors in its popularity. And although the basic model, priced at a hefty $200,000, isn’t affordable for everyone, the company feels it might be viewed as a more lucrative investment than a luxury boat or sports car for some, including Sean Tucker. Last July, ICON delivered its first A5 to Tucker, an aerobatic pilot and chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles, an organization dedicated to inspiring the next generation of pilots by providing introductory flight experiences to youth.
Where it began
Interest in aircraft like the A5 began in 2004 when the Federal Aviation Administration created a new classification of two-person Light Sport Aircraft. LSAs are targeted toward recreational pilots who primarily fly for fun. They’re designed to be affordable, lightweight and easy to operate and enable a new classification of sport pilots to fly in lower altitude, uncongested airspace during daylight and in good weather. The sport pilot license focuses on the fundamentals of flying and requires a minimum of 20 hours of in-flight training, reducing the time and cost of a traditional private pilot license by about half. According to the EAA, the new rules have brought about “the biggest change in aviation in 50 years.”
Producing a winner
ICON Aircraft, located about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, spent seven years developing its two-seat aircraft, described as “simple and safe enough that anyone can learn to fly it.” The aircraft has innovative safety features, including an intuitive cockpit, complete airframe parachute and an angle of attack safety system that tells pilots what they need to know about speed, load and maneuvering, making it possible for pilots of all skill levels to handle the controls.
The A5 weighs approximately 1,000 pounds and can reach speeds of up to 100 mph. Takeoff requires a speed of only 40 to 50 mph. The A5 requires less than 900 feet for takeoff and landing on water and less than 650 feet on a runway. It’s also economical, with a 100-horsepower engine that can travel 427 nautical miles on one tank of regular automotive fuel. A rear-mounted propeller enables an unobstructed view. The wings fold back, allowing the A5 to sit on a trailer for towing and to fit through a garage door.
With a three-year backlog, the company believes the A5 will become a global phenomenon. And with a $2,000 deposit, you can get in line to be a part of it all.
The ICON A5 Light Sport Aircraft features:
• Foldable wings
• Retractable landing gear
• Complete air parachute
• Spin-resistant airframe
• Angle of attack gauge
• Planing wingtips
• High visibility canopy
• Removable side windows
• GPS moving map
• Digital attitude indicator
• Seawings water platforms
• High intensity lighting
• Custom towing trailer
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