Light Aviation

June 1, 2017

Early Light Aviation Art

Could Russia's Frigate Ecojet take on Airbus and Boeing?Not far away, on the way to Sacramento, less than 100 miles away, another start-up is rolling out the first serially produced units of a new concept of amphibious foldable aircraft so compact they can be kept in a standard car garage.

Further north, in the mountains of Idaho, inventor and aviation legend Burt Rutan is preparing to fly to distant lands on the latest of his creations, a weird-looking seaplane with retractable skis, powered by a single roof-mounted propeller.

These planes are all part of a new generation of groundbreaking light (or small) aircraft models aiming to disrupt an industry that hasn't changed much in decades.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration defines "small" (also called "light") aircraft as "an aircraft of 12, 500 pounds or less maximum certificated takeoff weight." (Depending on the category, according to the FAA, small airplanes can reach up to 19, 000 pounds maximum takeoff weight.)

The Cobalt Valkyrie-X

"Awesome comes standard," proclaims the Icon A5's website.Cobalt Valkyrie-X: Available for pre-order.

The Valkyrie is designed to impress at first sight: sleek and beautiful, you could compare it to a high end sports car.

Or, maybe, an Apple product.

As Cobalt's founder and CEO, Loury explains that his idea of a design-centric aircraft is rooted in the realization that, in the iPhone era, making beautiful products is no longer a choice but a mandate.

The light aircraft industry is ripe for upheaval, he says.

It's time for new concepts.

Piston-engine technology

The Valkyrie-X isn't a toy.

Its main purpose isn't recreation, but moving people around over relatively long distances.

For example, the aircraft makes it possible to reach most of Western Europe from London without refueling.

Back from the dead: The legendary Junkers F13 flies againIt's being marketed as an affordable way to travel in style.

Its piston-engine technology keeps costs low, Loury says.

An operational cost of 0 per hour is an affordable proposition for many in the growing amateur pilot community, even more so when you factor in that the Valkyrie-X can carry up to five people.

The price starts at $699, 000 - more if the client wants to customize it with extras.

Cobalt is currently rolling out its first test aircraft and aims to produce about 50 a year.

Loury says strong pre-launch interest means he's ready to double production if necessary.

Icon A5 foldable seaplane

Yep, those are skis."Awesome comes standard, " proclaims the Icon A5's website.

The first production units were delivered in July 2015.

Unlike the Valkyrie, the Icon A5 is primarily a recreational aircraft.

It can be flown by anyone holding a sport pilot license - which takes about half the time to get as a standard license.

In addition to a sleek, compact design and intuitive high-visibility cockpit, one of the Icon A5's selling points is its foldability.

It also fits in most car garages and can be towed behind a vehicle for overland transport.

Icon Aircraft claims to have already received more than 1, 800 orders for the Icon A5.

That amounts to about a $400 million order book, which is likely to make investors happy - an illustrious roster that includes Ross Perot Jr. and Google's Eric Schmidt.

The base price of the aircraft is $197, 000, rising to $247, 000 with additional features.

Burt Rutan's SkiGull

Yep, those are skis.

Like the Icon A5, the SkiGull is a small amphibious aircraft that fits in a single-car garage, after having folded its wings.

But it's the plane's unusual configuration - a single engine located directly above the cockpit that is itself suspended from the wings in a gondola-like cabin - that's drawing instant interest across the industry.

Then there's the SkiGull's retractable, flexible ski system.

The skis provide five times the shock absorption deflection of a typical land plane, making it possible for the SkiGull to operate in considerably rougher environments than most other seaplanes.

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