AirVenture 2012: Two LSA Amphibs
For reasons no one seems to understand, LSA sales remain lukewarm at best. The FAA sees LSA as a 200-a-year kind of market for the foreseeable future. Maybe the things just aren't enough fun or they're too expensive or they lack utility. Beats me. You don't get good answers when you ask people why they don't buy things.
Two companies are addressing the fun deficit aspect with different takes on the same idea: sleek amphibious designs with folding wheels and wings. Icon has been out there a while with its A5 and here at AirVenture, we clapped eyes on a new one, the LISA Akoya. In case land and water aren't enough, the Akoya adds one more dimension: it has snow skis on its retractable gear. Here's a video report on the airplane.
We wanted to do a comparison with the A5, but Icon denied us permission to shoot video of their airplane—a first for us at a show where vendors, after all, come to show off their stuff. I get the impression Icon is steamed at us for reporting that they've petitioned the FAA for a weight exemption for the A5.
The Akoya doesn't seem weight challenged, which I find a little surprising given the articulated wings and retractable landing gear structure, all of which add weight. Not to mention cost. The Akoya is priced at a breathtaking $370,000, by far the most expensive LSA we've seen. I've given up predicting what will and won't sell based on price. For all I know, Akoya's climb into the stratospheric price zone will find lots of takers due to the prestige factor. Price value relationships can get weird when things get very expensive. And I don't know if buyers care as much about range, speed and payload as we think they do. (The Akoya wins on these comparisons.)
Neither of these airplanes lack for looks, though. The Akoya is softer, sleeker and more rounded, the A5 more angular and compact with an automotive-style interior you'd think would be out of place but which fits the overall character of the airplane. Both of them strike me as of a piece; nicely proportioned and pleasing to look at without any visual catch points. We'll know in a couple of years if buyers resonate with these aesthetics or will find them just two more ho-hum LSAs among many. Either way, they're both worth checking out here at AirVenture.