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
"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
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
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.