To most people, the world of sport flying is something that’s exotic and out of reach. Despite being a hobby that requires some serious dough to even consider yourself a dabbler, the sport’s incredibly steep learning curve is more than enough to steer away potential suitors. I mean, have you ever seen the inside of an airplane’s cockpit? Buttons. Everywhere. Well, thanks to a new personal aircraft from a small manufacturing company out of Vacaville, California called ICON, this steep learning curve seems much more manageable for amateur flyers.
Called the A5, ICON designed its new sport aircraft with a heavy emphasis on safety, portability, and pilot forgiveness. For ICON, perhaps the most important of these focuses lies with the craft’s safety. Obviously the last thing it wants is bad press regarding faulty planes, an inability to land, or failure to handle poor conditions. So when co-founders Kirk Hawkins (a former Air Force pilot) and Steen Strand (a skateboard designer) brainstormed about how to make their aircraft excel in safety, they quickly understood it needed to possess a spin-resistant airframe. Considering ICON found 41 percent of all pilot-related deaths to be associated with spin, it seems a no-brainer it spent a massive amount of time figuring out how to avoid this.
For those unaware of spin as it relates to flight, this occurs when an aircraft slows its velocity down so much it stops flying altogether. This loss in speed makes the plane literally fall out of the sky, spinning without control towards the ground. After heaps of testing and development, Hawkins and Strand developed the world’s first Spin-Resistant Airframe.
“We asked ourselves, why are planes still dealing with spin? Instead of needing perfect pilots who can recover from emergency situations, why don’t we make an airplane that doesn’t spin,” Hawkins tells Inc. in an interview. “The plane will give you all the warning signs, but if you stay in trouble the plane will not lose control and will not drop out of the sky.”
Aside from creating a system to eliminate spin, ICON also outfitted the A5 with intuitive controls, easy-to-read gauges, and a series of features which it says allows pilots to “spend less time looking down and more time looking out.” Moreover, Hawkins and his team built the aircraft to be incredibly portable, allowing owners to easily fold the A5’s wings to make it compact enough to fit on a trailer, while remaining as easy to load and unload as a boat.
Despite its available features and apparent ease of use, the A5 still requires owners obtain a pilot’s license in order to operate it. Unsurprisingly, this is also something ICON affords its customers, offering a wide range of training courses geared towards first-time pilots or seasoned vets. After learning the ropes, those interested in getting certified need to shell out just $9,500 for a legit pilot’s license and Sport Pilot Certification.
We know what you’re thinking — what’s the catch? Though every incredible feature and benefit relative to the A5 makes it an intriguing option to become your next favorite hobby, the aircraft’s price will no doubt bring those desires back down to Earth. According to ICON’s site, those interested in an A5 have the ability to reserve one for $5k before shelling out a whopping $189k upon completion of the aircraft’s construction. Even for those still onboard with buying one, expect to wait until 2019 to step foot inside your very own A5, as roughly 1,600 people currently occupy the waiting list.
Though, even with an exorbitant price tag and an incredibly long wait time, there’s no denying just how incredible it would be to unleash one of these on your next camping trip.