Eclipse's Vern Raburn Emcees Launch Of ICON Amphib LSA

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In an unveiling at ICON Aircraft's company headquarters in Los Angeles—in fact, directly across Jefferson Avenue from the defunct Hughes Airport—the A5 Light Sport amphibian was introduced to a crowd of 500-plus trendy Angelenos, investors, powersport stars, and designers packed cheek-to-diesel. After a short speech from Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn, who's also on ICON's board of advisors, and introductions by ICON Aircraft's founder Kirk Hawkins (to include powersports design impresario Troy Lee and former Red Bull director of sports marketing, Paul Crandall) and the company's chief of engineering, none other than Matthew Gionta, ex of Scaled Composites, the drape was lifted on the A5.

The high-wing, two-seat amphibian wears a sleek strutless, all-carbon-fiber airfoil "custom made" for the aircraft hiding a clever, crowd-wowing feature: an electric fold mechanism. With the whir of anticipation, the audience watched the A5's wings pull back at the leading-edge root, rotate nearly 90 degrees up and swing their tips back toward the T tail. "You can pack it up and haul it behind the car like a speedboat," said Hawkins.

In many details, the A5 is unique. Twin landing lights in the nose evoke automotive headlights, a plane-as-car theme carried through to the interior. "You won't see an airliner's cockpit," said Hawkins. Indeed, the instrument panel is more like a motorcycle's; the interior very car-like and supposedly roomy, with a claimed 46 inches between the sidewalls.

Perched atop the carbon-fiber cockpit and behind the front-hinged canopy with removable side windows is a 100-hp Rotax 912S pushing a three-blade propeller. Nominally a tri-gear airplane, when waterborne the A5 is a hull floater, with small pods behind the cabin on each side for stability that also enclose the retracted main gear. A ballistic parachute is part of the design.

ICON is claiming a maximum speed of 120 mph, range of 300 nautical miles and a useful load of 430 pounds, which is also the legal minimum useful load for a two-seat, 100-hp LSA. The A5 will carry 20 gallons of autogas for the 912. Takeoff and landing distances are claimed to be 750 feet each.

Announced price is $139,000 with deliveries expected to begin in 2010. The design has not yet flown. At the introduction, guests were offered the chance to get on the sales list before the general introduction of the aircraft on Thursday. All it took was $5000.