A recurring theme at Gizmag in recent times has been the growing accessibility of the recreational sports aircraft, with the manufacturers responding to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 2004 introduction of Sport Pilot Licensing and the Light Sport Aircraft category by offering increasingly versatile and user-friendly designs combined with falling price points. Like the Cessna SkyCatcher, the ICON A5, which was officially unveiled this week in Los Angeles, is a case in point. Powered by a 100hp Rotax 912 ULS engine achieving an estimated maximum speed of 105 kts (120 mph) and a range of 300 nm, the amphibious, two-seat, composite carbon fiber plane features a sportscar inspired cockpit and retractable landing gear for flying off land and water, but the standout element is the folding wing design which allows the plane to be towed on the road like a speed boat and stored at home rather than paying for space at an airport.
ICON Aircraft was founded out of Stanford Graduate School of Business former U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot Kirk Hawkins, who brought together a team made up of former top engineers at Scaled Composites (think Voyager, GlobalFlyer and SpaceShipOne) to realize the design of its first first model, the ICON A5. Apart from being able to keep it in the garage (though granted you will need a space 28 foot long x 8.5 feet wide), the sleek plane's versatility is enhanced by a short take off and landing distance of 750 ft on both land and water, the ability to run on both auto and aviation gasoline, tie down points for easy handling, plus the inclusion of a Seawing designed to improved stability on water, docking and ease of entry. The wing-folding mechanism can be operated by a single person and there is even an option to activate the mechanism from the cockpit while taxiing.
Safety features include a rocket-launched Complete Airplane Parachute (ICAP) stowed in the roof section, a patent-pending Propeller Guard, Wing Angle of Attack indicator, integral headlights and a GPS moving map system that keeps the pilot informed of local terrain and weather in real-time.
The automotive styled cockpit is wide enough at 46" to provide comfortable side-by side seating in waterproof sports seats that recline to 30 degrees. The wrap around, forward opening bubble canopy delivers exceptional line-of site visibility and to top-off the sportscar experience, the side windows are removable so you can let in the breeze.
A full-scale prototype of the ICON A5 is scheduled to begin flight tests this summer with first deliveries expected to be in late 2010. Pricing for the standard model has been set at USD$139,000 and if you want to join the queue early, ICON Aircraft are now accepting a refundable $5,000 deposit.