As far back as the late 15th century with Leonardo da Vinci until present time, man has been fascinated with flight, myself included. Once the Wright Brothers had successfully completed their first flight in 1903, man has ever since been trying to perfect the airplane, making them faster, larger, and more luxurious.
The Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, established in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge, was created to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S. The FAA sets strict rules about the type of airplanes permitted to fly over our skies. In 2004, they ruled and established a new Light Sport Aircraft category. This class, along with an easier-to-obtain Sport Pilot License, simplified the process for private individuals to take to the skies. The new certification requires just 20 hours of flight training and costs around , 000-, 500. The planes in this category can only carry two occupants, must fly below 10, 000 feet and cannot exceed 120 knots, or approximately 140 miles per hour.
Founder and CEO of ICON, Kirk Hawkins, a former U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, had a vision back in 2004 while he was a graduate student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, to create an airplane that was as consumer friendly as BMW or Apple. For the past three or so years, Hawkins, along with fellow graduate student and former IDEO design engineer, Steen Strand, have been diligently erecting their creation ever since.
Hawkins received backing from IDEO founder David Kelley, CEO and founder of Eclipse Aviation, Vern Raburn, and Jim Ellis, lecturer from Stanford. Unfortunately, ICON will not disclose how much financing it raised for this project.
On June 11th, Hawkins unveiled the prototype, the A5. At 22 ft. long, roughly the length of two compact cars back-to-back, it seats two and has a 100hp Rotax 912 ULS engine that can achieve an estimated maximum speed of 105 knots (120 mph). There are a few extras that Hawkins included to make this airplane truly stand out from the crowd. For starters, it is a composite of carbon fiber, aiding the plane in being as light as it is and as light as the FAA requires. A 46 inch cockpit that looks more like a sport car dashboard than the usual airplane cockpit. This one a feature that Hawkins was adamant about, making the A5 consumer friendly.
The A5 also features optional retractable landing gear, allowing it to land and take off from both land and water.
As if all those extra were not enough, the A5’s most appealing feature has to be its folding wings. The wings, which span 34 ft., can fold manually or automatically and tuck neatly under the plane’s slim rear tail. This standout element allows the A5 to be towed behind your vehicle the same way you would your speedboat and allows you to store it at home rather than paying for storage place at an airport.
With all these amazing extra features, you would think the A5 would have to skimp somewhere, but it does not. Especially where it really counts, safety. The A5 includes a rocket-launched Complete Airplane Parachute (ICAP) stowed in the roof section, a low stall speed, patent-pending Propeller Guard, Wing Angel of Attack indicator, integral headlights and a GPS moving map system that informs the pilot of local terrain and weather in real-time.
After all this, I was thinking this baby would be at least half a million bucks, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is starting out at, and I use this term loosely, only $139, 000. Of course, a few of the goodies and safety features are at an additional cost, like the ICAP, the retractable landing gear and a custom aircraft towing trailer. The only downfall that I can see is the weight limit to take off. You are allotted just 430 pounds between fuel, cargo and passengers. So that would be a 20 gallon fuel tank, two weekend bags and…? It seems that only the Olsen twins and Keira Knightly will be able to fly this bad boy.