Light Sport Aircraft
In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a new classification of easy-to-fly and affordable two-person airplanes called Light Sport Aircraft. These airplanes enable a new classification of Sport Pilots to fly in lower-altitude, uncongested airspace, during the daytime, 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, undercutting the time and cost of a traditional Private Pilot License by about 50%.
The same year, ICON Aircraft was founded as a consumer sport plane manufacturer. ICON’s first plane is the A5, an amphibious sport aircraft. ICON Aircraft’s facilities are in Southern California, known as a hotbed of automotive design and aerospace engineering.
The A5 is a high-wing, amphibious monoplane with a carbon fibre airframe and retractable undercarriage. This mini “flying boat” seats two people cocooned in a 46-inch-wide (116.8 cm) cockpit and is powered by a single 100 hp (75 kW) Rotax 912 iS engine driving a three-bladed pusher propeller. The rear position of the propeller affords an excellent view out front.
For water operations, the Dornier-style sponsons that house the retracted main landing gear provide hydrodynamic stability and also act as a step for crew and passenger.
The ICON A5 has a trick up its sleeve with wings that fold aft ground transport and storage.
Factory standard equipment includes an angle of attack (AOA) indicator as a safety feature for stall awareness; not usually found on civilian general aviation aircraft. The A5 uses many different design elements to provide a manageable stall recovery.
U.S. registered A5 aircraft must have mandatory a whole-airframe Ballistic Recovery Systems parachute as part of the conditions for ICON exceeding the FAA LSA weight limit. I can’t think why owners outside the U.S.A. would opt to not fit the optional parachute.
Capacity: one passenger
Length: 23 ft (7.0 m)
Wingspan: 34.8 ft (10.6 m)
Height: 8.1 ft (2.5 m)
Empty weight: 1,080 lb (490 kg)
Gross weight: 1,510 lb (685 kg)
Fuel capacity: 20 US gal (76 l)
Powerplant: 1 × Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected, air and liquid cooled four cylinder aircraft engine, 100 hp (75 kW)
Propellers: 3-bladed composite
Maximum speed: 95 kn (109 mph; 176 km/h)
Range: 427 nmi (491 mi; 791 km)
Portable GPS with an integrated panel mount
VHF Communication Radio
Modes A, C & S and ADS-B Transponder
Cost: US$389,000 (fully equipped, 2018 price)
VIDEO: ICON A5 over Catalina Island
Ostensibly, this new segment of Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) brings the thrill and adventure of flight to the luxury lifestyle market. ICON Aircraft has not been free from some controversy. Apart from squeaking into the LSA category by getting an exemption from the weight limits and a number of crashes by celebrity owners and even the chief designer, albeit classed as pilot errors, the big dissent was about ICON’s original purchaser’s agreement.
In April 2016, the ICON A5 purchaser’s agreement was revealed and contained many controversial terms not usually found in aircraft purchase agreements. These included contractually required pilot training, maintenance, agreements not to sue, the requirement for factory airframe overhauls every 2,000 hours or ten years (whichever comes first), and a limit on the aircraft’s life of 6,000 hours, or thirty years. Furthermore, each aircraft would be equipped with a camera and recorder to monitor pilot behaviour, that is owned by the manufacturer but must be maintained by the owner. Owners would have to agree to be “supportive” of the company. Future owners were required to sign the same agreement or face penalties. The aviation media channels went ballistic but one could understand some of the terms had a safety intent despite accusations of “Big Brother.”
In May 2016, ICON issued a revised contract that removed many, but not all controversial elements. Removed were the audio and video cockpit recorder, the “responsible flyer” clause, limiting the owner’s cost of the mandatory airframe overhaul to $15,000 and removing the 30-year life limit. Retained were the agreement not to sue, the requirement for company-approved training and the requirement that the agreement bind future owners.
Flying the ICON A5
Pushing hard on the A5 only yields a top speed of about 90 knots so you have to fly low and slow. Bearing in mind that the raison d’etre for this class of aircraft is adventure rather than swift transportation, it gives you a chance to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. You can see stuff that usually passes by at speed and high altitude….whales, buffalo, rivers and lakes.
The amphibious capability really opens up the cope for fun as you can get to secluded coves and places without hard airfields.
“The true cost of luxury is the choice that it affords.”
You pays your money as you make your choice…..
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).