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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedA new business approach to LSA
By Randy Dufault
  

Spectators crowded more than 10 people deep to witness the unveiling of fledgling LSA maker Icon Aircraft take the wraps of its all-new composite amphib, the A5 during ceremonies on the opening morning of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008. Photos by Dave Higdon

Aviation, and in particular, sport flying, is but one option competing for the discretionary dollars people have to spend. ICON Aircraft, who unveiled its all-new, amphibious, folding wing A5 light-sport airplane to the public Monday morning at EAA AirVenture, is doing all it can to win that competition.

"It was EAA's vision that a company would start from scratch to create an innovative new design that would reach out to enthusiasts," EAA President Tom Poberezny told the large crowd assembled for the event. "ICON has developed that vision into the kind of product that people expect today."

"Innovation is the fuel that drives creativity," added Vern Raburn, founder and former CEO of Eclipse Aviation, and a member of the ICON board of directors. "Innovation helps you create a new market and new customers and that's what the light-sport aircraft movement is all about. This airplane and this company are going to change the rules for marketing [sport] aircraft."

The ICON A5 is a composite design with several unique features. One key element of the design is an ability to fold the aircraft's wings, roll it up onto a trailer, and tow it to and from the airport, or to and from a distant destination. The wings, which have an option to operate electrically, generated "oohs and aahs" from the audience when they were folded and subsequently unfolded during the public unveiling.

ICON's folding wing design drew from several technologies. According to ICON Vice President for Engineering Matthew Gionta, "The challenge for us was to make a completely safe wing fold. What you see here is the merging of two designs-Navy wing folding mechanisms that have been used for decades and decades and that is what we used [for folding]. And in parallel with that we have a glider overlapping spar joint that is as robust as you can possibly get for a spar joint."

Gionta felt so confident in the folding design that the A5 flying prototype, which the company brought to Oshkosh, incorporates the folding mechanism.

Another key feature of the A5 is its cockpit. Underneath its large, forward opening canopy, are two side-by-side seats separated by a console. The instrument panel and controls of the airplane, excepting the floor mounted control sticks, are easily described as looking more like what would be in a car than is typical for an airplane.

"We delivered a cockpit that is supremely credible for even the most experienced flyers and at the same time is entirely accessible to people that have never flown before," Gionta said about the panel. "We've had expert aviators look in this cockpit and say that is exactly what I need to go flying for fun."

Power for the amphib comes from a Rotax 912 ULS engine, driving a three-bladed pusher propeller.

ICON is taking orders for the airplane and as of the unveiling had commitments for 214 delivery positions.

ICON chief executive officer Kirk Hawkins, an experienced pilot, summed up what the company is trying to accomplish by saying, "I've flown every kind of aircraft including F-16s, but the best flying experiences I've always had are flying low and slow with my friends in a sport aircraft. In the last 50 years I believe we've lost the passion and romance in flying and ICON intends to bring that back.

"We believe flying is about freedom, fun and adventure. We wanted to create an aircraft that people will have a visceral, emotional response to. ICON is here to put the sport back in sport flying."

Hawkins closed with a quote from aviation pioneer Orville Wright, who in 1903 said, "The exhilaration of flying is too keen, the pleasure too great for it not to be a sport."

The A5 can be seen at the ICON exhibit just east of the EAA AirVenture main gate.

 

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