The ICON A5 performs water maneuvers at Lake Isabella, Calif., where it underwent a majority of its hydrodynamic testing.
Proving that good things come to those who wait, ICON Aircraft just announced that they’ve completed their first production aircraft for a customer, with regular aircraft deliveries starting this summer after FAA acceptance. The first customer aircraft took its inaugural flight on April 24, 2015, with test pilot and then-lead aero engineer Jon Karkow at the controls.
ASN-1 (Aircraft Serial Number 1) flew from ICON’s research-and-development facilities in Tehachapi, Calif., as the first flight of the customer-deliverable aircraft. The milestone has been a long time coming for the tech and marketing-savvy company, which started development of the innovative A5 amphibious aircraft in 2007 after the introduction of the light-sport aircraft category. The flight was the first of several planned test flights for the James Bond-esque vehicle, which has been hotly anticipated since being announced in 2008.
ICON was started by former fighter pilot and Stanford Business School graduate Kirk Hawkins with a former classmate and Harvard graduate Steen Strand. The two set out to create a very different aircraft company with a vision far outside the aviation community. In 2007, ICON added a team of engineers and fabricators that came from Burt Rutan’s famed Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif. Work began on a safe and fun amphibious LSA that would appeal to a wide audience.
ICON’s A5 has developed an eager following from around the world thanks to its automotive styling and promised simplicity. Marketing for the futuristic amphibian has been focused outside of traditional aviation outlets and has generated much buzz among outdoor and powersports enthusiasts. From its conception, the A5 has relied on partnerships to help it stand out among aircraft. Cirrus is a strategic provider of composite airframe components and the A5 was the featured plane in Microsoft Flight’s 2012 launch.
In a key development, the FAA granted ICON’s 2013 request for an exemption to the LSA category’s 1,430-pound maximum weight for amphibious planes. The exemption allows up to a 250-pound increase. Next up for the A5 are more tests and an FAA audit as ICON gears up for FAA acceptance. Engineering has been a hallmark of this aircraft, even to the point of ICON redesigning the original wing to a spin-resistant design. The airframe has been subjected to +6 Gs in testing, with 18-inch deflections of the A5’s wingtips without structural failure.
The A5 will be built in a purpose-designed, 140,000-square-foot manufacturing facility adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville, Calif. ICON intends to consolidate aircraft manufacturing, sales, training, service and corporate headquarters at the new location. With reported orders of some 1,250 aircraft, ICON is projecting a $350 million dollar economic impact on the Vacaville region, including hundreds of jobs.
Stay tuned for our September issue, when we’ll take the controls of the super-sleek A5 for the first time and give a detailed pilot report on this hotly anticipated aircraft.