Sept. 1, 2008 – Vehicle targets water (and air) enthusiasts

A new California-based light-sport aircraft manufacturer, ICON, is looking to cater to a niche market with a new amphibious sport plane.
The ICON A5 is a land and sea capable aircraft that can be used for both recreational flying and boating. The two-seat sport plane features an amphibious design with retractable landing gear for flying off land and water, plus several patent-pending technologies highlighted by folding wings that allow the plane to be easily stored and towed on the road with a trailer.
“ICON Aircraft is bringing the freedom, fun and adventure back into both aviation and boating by building aircraft that evoke an emotional response like great sports cars do,” founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins said. “The sport is now back in flying and boating.”
The ICON A5 features a high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber airframe and is powered by a 100 hp Rotax 912 ULS engine that runs on both auto and aviation gasoline at an estimated top speed of 120 mph. Besides the folding wings, more unique features specific to the ICON A5 include a sports car-like cockpit with MP3 port, and patent-pending Seawing platform for easy access and docking on water.
“This is the beginning of a new era by bringing in potentially hundreds of thousands of new pilots to aviation, and doing so with the added benefit of having a high-performance boating craft as well,” said Vern Raburn, founder and CEO of Eclipse Aviation. “We certainly expect people will be somewhat leery when they first see our product, but once you see what it is capable of and what a unique element it adds to your outdoor adventures, it’s going to be a hit for aviators and powersports enthusiasts alike.”

Unique engineering

A team of product designers that have worked for leading automotive manufacturers, such as BMW, General Motors and Ford, contributed to the design of the ICON A5. A full-scale prototype began flight tests this summer under the guidance of ICON’s engineering team.
According to Matthew Gionta, ICON’s vice president of engineering, the test flights and water expeditions have been extremely successful.
“I’m proud of what this team has accomplished,” Gionta said. “I’ve been in the business of designing and building aircraft and boats my entire career and I’ve never worked with a more talented team. When you get bright people pulling hard toward a common goal, then really incredible things start to happen. The ICON A5 is an example of this.”
ICON Lead Aero Engineer and Test Pilot Jon Karkow conducted a test flight, which demonstrated the aircraft’s performance and flying characteristics during take-off, landing and low-speed maneuvering flight. In addition, the aircraft’s performance during water operations was evaluated.
“Everything went as well as an initial test flight possibly could go; so I was very pleased,” Karkow said. “The aircraft flew and handled the water exceptionally well and met or exceeded our design expectations. The A5 seems to be a great hybrid model for the powersports industry right out of the box.”
The full-scale prototype aircraft is scheduled to undergo several phases of test flights during the next year before the design is finalized. After flight testing, a pre-production model will be built to meet all the Federal Aviation Administration and American Society Testing and Materials compliance standards before entering production in late 2010.
For those looking to walk into their nearest dealer and grab one off the shelf, make sure you have plenty of cash in-hand. The estimated price of the ICON A5 standard model is $139,000.
“This certainly isn’t your common powersports vehicle, and we understand that we’re going to attract a specific range of customers,” Hawkins said. “As the technology improves and is more easily manufactured, I foresee this being something that could be affordable for many more people in the next 5-10 years.”
Aircraft production and initial deliveries are scheduled to begin in late 2010. Orders are now being accepted at www.iconaircraft.com with a refundable $5,000 deposit. psb

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button