ICON Looking For Weight Exemption For A5

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ICON Aircraft has asked the FAA for an exemption from the upper weight limit for amphibious light sport aircraft to incorporate what it says are important safety features in its A5 aircraft. The company says it needs an additional 250 pounds above the current weight limit of 1430 pounds to accommodate the extra wing and tail surface area, and attendant structural components, to make the aircraft spin resistant. That’s roughly the equivalent of the weight of a Cessna 152. ICON announced earlier this year that it had created a truly spin resistant design in the A5 and is trying to convince the FAA that the safety improvement is worth the extra weight for inclusion in the LSA category. “The potential safety benefits of a Spin-Resistant Airframe (SRA) for the S-LSA category are extraordinary,” ICON says in its submission to the FAA. “SRA can dramatically reduce loss-of-control fatalities related to inadvertent stall/spin entries. Stall/spin entries account for an alarming 41 percent of all pilot-related fatalities.” At last January’s Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla., EAA President Rod Hightower announced the FAA was considering allowing weight exemptions for LSAs for safety-related equipment.

In its submission to the FAA, ICON said making its aircraft safer by making it spin resistant essentially requires more carbon fiber than the current rules will permit and still allow it to carry more than the pilot and a bologna sandwich. To be spin resistant, the aircraft needs bigger wings and that has a cascading effect on other structures. “The increased wing area then in turn requires increased tail size for stability along with the corresponding increase in internal structure, as well as proportional accommodation factor weight – at a minimum,” the submission says. “Further, the increased wing, tail, and specific spin-resistance elements also result in an increase in aerodynamic drag which requires increased engine size and additional fuel to compensate. The net result is that a Spin-Resistant Airframe requires increased vehicle weight over a similar S-LSA airplane that does not achieve spin resistance.” ICON also says weight-adding features like a finished passenger area without exposed cables and structural elements will increase safety. The submission was first published by the FAA in the Federal Register in May (we missed it) and the comment period for that submission has closed. However, Independent Aircraft Inc., which makes a composite LSA amphib called the SeaDragon that meets current weight requirements, applied for and received an extension to the comment period (PDF) to address what it said were important issues related to ICON’s request. Comments are being accepted until July 27.