Check out the design technology behind Icon's A5 aircraft.
I recently had an amazing experience with the team at Icon. Sure, I spend a lot of time writing about creating content and fiddling with my camera, but I'm also an aviation fan. I love airplanes and everything about them. Icon offered me a demo ride in its A5 aircraft, and I couldn't say no. I'm glad I didn't. During and after my demo, I could only think of one thing: Maybe this could be the future of flying.
When you approach an A5, you'll notice the size is not intimidating. The wingspan is just over 30-feet, and the length of the aircraft is roughly 22-feet. When I saw images of the A5 online prior to my flight, I immediately thought of a futuristic vehicle that I saw in my childhood on The Jetsons cartoon. A cabin big enough for two people, but an aircraft that is, well, fun-sized.
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Seeing the A5 in person immediately proved my first thoughts to be true. It's a unique aircraft. My only concern was for my personal comfort. I've seen small automobiles that were larger than the A5 from an interior cubic feet standpoint, but when I sat in the driver's seat, I felt cramped. I had concerns when my pilot, Hope Edge, told me to hop on in for our flight. Boy was I wrong!
The comfort of the cockpit exceeded my expectations. I'm not a small guy in stature, but I'm not necessarily average size, either. My 6-feet 2-inch, 235-pound frame easily climbed into the cockpit with plenty of legroom and seat width. My view over the instrument panel was great and all instruments and toggles were easily within reach (Figure A).
The aircraft for anyone to fly
Once I sat in this aircraft, I was blown away by the interior's industrial design and engineering. If it wasn't for the yoke between my knees, I would have assumed I was in a high-end sports car. The instrument cluster had a layout ideal for any common person to comprehend. I'm no pilot, but as I strapped in, I had no doubt regarding what each panel display represented. Intuitive design goes a very long way.
Another noteworthy design of the A5 is the portability. The aircraft is so lightweight and nimble that you can attach it to a trailer and pull it with an automobile. If you want to keep it at your home in your garage, you can. The foldable wing design makes the aircraft easy to store in a garage as its wingspan shrinks down to roughly eight feet in length.
Because of the aircraft's design and size, only a sport license is required to pilot the A5. This gives those wanting the opportunity to fly a much greater chance because the license is a lot less expensive and requires less training hours than a commercial license. You're required 15 hours of flight training with a certified professional and five hours of solo training. Depending upon your flight instructor's rates, you could get the SPL for about $4,000, which is less than the typical $10,000 or more for the higher certifications.
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Experiencing a stall
In recent news, Boeing has been under fire regarding the 737-8 Max aircraft accidents. There's a lot of discussion and debate regarding sensors dealing with the aircraft's angle of attack (AOA). In the A5 the AOA panel is clearly visible and easy to read. AOA instruments aren't usually available in smaller aircraft such as the A5. This feature is just another attention to detail that allows anyone the opportunity to get comfortable with piloting a small aircraft.
Edge said that she wanted to show me what happens if an A5 goes into an aero stall during flight. A stall is when the wings of an aircraft stop creating lift. When an aircraft stalls, there's definitely a moment of panic as your plane pretty much turns into a falling object in the sky, usually, with an out of control spin. When Edge went into a stall, the AOA meter began to display a red indication and a loud buzzer began.
I didn't panic, though. I felt the aircraft begin to drop, but that sensation felt more like a roller coaster ride at a local theme park than a threat of danger. There was no nose dive or spinning. We just floated. This is because of the aircraft's advanced design. It kept the A5 in a manageable altitude, which helps any pilot recover from a stall scenario. There's no fighting against the computer or yoke to regain control. The A5's spin-resistant design is a marvel in itself.
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The flight was incredibly fun and smooth, and there wasn't much wind to fight with. Flying over--and landing on--Lake Norman was an absolute thrill. As we landed on the lake, Edge popped the canopy for us to just hang out . It was the oddest, yet awesome feeling sitting on a wing in the middle of the water (Figure B).
Pricing and availability
The A5 is handled on a per-order basis, meaning once you decide to buy the aircraft, your A5 is put through a four to five months production-to-delivery cycle. The A5 is available for $389,000. I really like the idea of having a personal aircraft, which could be easily stored at your home like an automobile. If you live in an area similar to where I am in North Carolina, the option to hop in your personal aircraft to go to work is much more exciting than fighting the traffic on interstate highways or navigating through winding country roads. Plus, the views are much more beautiful at 1000-feet altitude.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts on the A5 from Icon as well as the SPL options available to you as a prospective pilot? I look forward to hearing about future advancements from the team at Icon as they try to make flying your own aircraft more of a reality in the future. Excuse me, while I go put on my George Jetson attire.
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