AirVenture 2012: Two LSA Amphibs

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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.

Comments (14)

There is a tiny, almost nonexistent, overlap between the purpose and spirit of the light sport category (small, simple, fun) and the price tag of new LSAs (astronomical).

If you try to sell a Ford Escort at the price of a Mercedes S-Class, it's not difficult to calculate what will happen. There is no mystery whatsoever.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | July 24, 2012 4:55 PM    Report this comment

I think Icon and Akoya are sipping the same Kool-Aid that the Terrafugia folks have been drinking. All of these will appeal to a tiny subset of the market - those for whom no amount of money is a problem and want yet another "toy."
Practically, in any one of these examples, you can buy a nice LSA instead and have tons of money left over for the alternate transportation - cars, jet-skis, boats, snow machines, or whatever ... and still have money left over to operate them!

Posted by: JOHN AUSTIN | July 25, 2012 6:09 AM    Report this comment

What about the SeaRey amphibian? It's been around long enough to have the design fine-tuned, and the always good handling is now exquisite. They're working on S-LSA certification now, and they've got a folding wing option.

Posted by: Ed Wischmeyer | July 25, 2012 7:18 AM    Report this comment

I can understand Icon asking for a safety orientated weight increase for a ballistic parachute, but what they are asking for makes a mockery of the LSA rules and implies that the Icon is just plain built too heavy

Posted by: Bruce Stark | July 25, 2012 7:52 AM    Report this comment

My opinion is that Icon has a basic design problem they're trying to overcome with the smoke screen about making it "spin proof". The aerodynamic things they're trying aren't new, they've been around since the 30's and the airplane doesn't need to be bigger and heavier to resist spins. I'm guessing they've tripped on their own hype and when they restricted the up elevator travel found out they can't operate the airplane off water. Kind of kills the concept.

Posted by: Barton Robinett | July 25, 2012 10:34 AM    Report this comment

As I understand it the Icon people are asking for a weight increase of about 250 lbs above what is allowed under the LSA rules for amphibian aircraft. They aren’t asking to add a ballistic parachute but to modify and lengthen the wings and tail feathers to make the A5 more spin resistant; a noble oft tried endeavor. I also believe the Icon people have done a good job in designing, as it now stands, a great LSA sport aircraft within the limits of the LSA rules.
But here’s the rub. The FAA’s original weight requirement for an LSA was 1,232 lbs gross weight. Then that was raised to 1320 lbs gross weight so that a ballistic parachutes or certified four stroke engines could be used. Then the gross weight was again raised for amphibians to 1430 lbs so that floats could be added. Now the LSA amphibian maximum gross weight is again being asked to be raised to prevent an undesirable flight characteristic. The FAA has a bit of a quandary here. If it permits this weight increase of 250 lbs for safety reasons, look for most of the LSA manufactures to get on the band wagon and request a 250 lb increase for all kinds of safety reasons.
Also waiting in the wings are thousands of venerable and relatively inexpensive Cessna 150/152 airplanes. A 250 lb increase in gross weight would make a pretty strong argument for there inclusion into the LSA category. With the Cessna’s unleashed, most at affordable pricing, what would happen to the LSA industry and their $100,000 plus airplanes?

Posted by: David Bauer | July 25, 2012 1:50 PM    Report this comment

Amphibs and float planes are neat. However, California, ~10% of the population and more than 10% of the pilots are impeded by the regulations here.

Many states allow water operations everywhere except where prohibited.

California prohibits water operations except where specifically allowed. And those places have shrunk over the years.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 25, 2012 1:56 PM    Report this comment

The LSA category is self-defeating in itself. Sure, it may be fun to putter around in a slow, low-powered bird from time to time, and the self-certifying medical must be a treat. But for those of use who appreciate more performance, the LSA rules are far too restrictive.

Posted by: Brooks Wolfe | July 25, 2012 5:16 PM    Report this comment

The hype surrounding the Icon A5 reminds me of the similar hype around the Eclipse jet when it was first announced. When something sounds too good to be true it usually is. I suspect that history will repeat itself and the A5 will eventually ship, be too heavy, lack promised features and be over priced. Recall that Eclipse had high profile investors also. Seems like the French may be taking the same approach that one of their car manufactures has taken quite successfully, Bugatti, low rate production of exquisite cars at an astronomical price. The Akoya may be the Veyron ($1.7M per copy over 300 sold)of the Amphib world.

Posted by: STEPHEN MALKINSON | July 26, 2012 10:16 AM    Report this comment

"or reasons no one seems to understand"

Currently, one can expect to buy an early 70's Cherokee 140 with a 0 SMHO engine for the low to mid $30K range. Nice '50's vintage Bonanzas with antique engines are below that, and nice late '60's Bonanza type 35's with 1300# useful loads and big bore Continental engines in production are less than 100K.

Might that have something to do with it? How much are new LSA's selling for?

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | July 26, 2012 7:55 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Stephen; Icon seems to be all hype. That is not to say that they don't have a great looking, well designed airplane. It's just that it is a very expensive toy, and not all that practical. You can't put much in it, and then you can't haul what you do put in it very far. It will take high and sustained production rates to for it to survive, which will most likely not materialize. Pre-production orders are a red herring. People get emotional about pretty airplanes. Whenever I see a big booth at Oshkosh and no real airplanes, it seems dubious. If you want to believe in a new airplane at this year's show, I hope you visited the Honda tent. The hardware matched the hype. I'm a believer in the Honda Jet.

Posted by: John Bond | July 30, 2012 6:13 AM    Report this comment

First came primary category airplanes and recreational pilots ... didn't work at all (except now I hear Cessna is gonna try it with the C162). Then came light sport airplanes and pilots ... isn't working good enough except that the no medical aspect draws in a few more.

Greg is correct, unless and until light sport can price itself at maybe twice the cost of an older used PA28-140 or C172, it is never going to take off. I own one of each of those airplanes and I'd be lucky to get $60K for both of 'em. I'd love to own a CTLiS but NOT for $100K more than what I already have. WHen the time comes, I'm throwin' in the towel. Ultimately, the FAA can have one employee for every one pilot in the US if it keeps killing GA one razor blade cut at a time.

We all need to keep pushing the recreational pilot medical waiver petition ... it's the LAST great hope for GA in the USA!!

I'm going to write a letter to the editor of AvWeb which -- if they choose to print it -- will astound most of ya'll. Something I uncovered at my 30th Airventure 2012 which shows the nonsense the FAA uses for logic.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | July 30, 2012 10:52 AM    Report this comment

"Greg is correct, unless and until light sport can price itself at maybe twice the cost of an older used PA28-140 or C172, it is never going to take off"

If this is true, then why doesn't the Aerotrek 220/240, at $78,000--twice the price of an early 1970s 172--fly off the shelves in a frenzy of buyer enthusiasm? It occupies the 12th rank in sales volume.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 1, 2012 6:05 AM    Report this comment

The new LSAs are fragil and more expensive in every way than C150s, C152, C172, Aeronca Champ, J3 Cub, Beech Skippers, to name a few. One does not get more bang for ones buck. The market is very small and getting smaller and the latest class three medical proposed regulations are reducing buyer's interests even more so, therefore expect less LSA manufacturers and even higher pricing. Having been in manufacturing, sales and flight instruction most of my life I strongly believe the LSA market is dead.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 6, 2012 10:11 AM    Report this comment

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