How LSA workS
In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration introduced a category known as Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) and a pilot’s certificate called Sport Pilot. Since that time, momentum has built, even in the face of the worldwide economic slowdown during the period.
For yachtsmen with a yen to fly, the good news is that LSA offerings have increased exponentially since the rules were promulgated and include amphibious aircraft with structures that are lightweight, strong and resistant to the elements that lend themselves quite well for use as “air tenders” for yachts. • Single reciprocating engine • Fixed landing gear (retractable gear approved for seaplanes) • Unpressurized cabin • Fixed or ground-adjustable propeller • Maximum capacity: two persons • Maximum gross weight: 1,320 pounds (1,430 pounds for seaplanes) • Maximum speed in level flight at maximum continuous power: 120 knots • Maximum stall speed: 45 knots • Require FAA knowledge (written) and practical (flight) tests • Credit sport pilot flight time toward more advanced pilot ratings • Require a Third Class FAA medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver’s license as evidence of medical eligibility (provided the individual’s most recent application for an FAA medical certificate was not denied, revoked, suspended or withdrawn) • Do not allow carrying passengers for compensation or hire • Do not allow flights in furtherance of business • Allow sharing (“pro-rata”) operating expenses with another pilot or passenger • Allow daytime flight only • Allow sport pilots to fly certain vintage and production aircraft that meet the definition of an LSA — M.M.
Indeed, the A5 was designed to have the allure of a luxury automobile by Icon’s lead designers, whose backgrounds include stints at BMW and Honda and who ride high-performance Aprilias and Ducatis to unwind. The styling inside and out is aggressive yet refined, with nary the smallest detail overlooked. Then, there is the A5’s engineering, led by veterans from Audi and Bombardier Recreational Products and the plane’s aeronautical design, the product of a team managed by veterans of Scaled Composites, whose history-making aviation projects include Voyager, Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer and SpaceShipOne.
To meet the stringent weight requirement set forth in the LSA regulations, the A5 is built almost entirely of carbon fiber and outfitted with custom hardware that is corrosion-resistant for use in the saltwater environment. The hull is stepped and incorporates a wide, structural appendage just above the waterline on each side that provides stability when the A5 is at rest, and a convenient platform for cockpit ingress and egress. Equally important, these “water wings” obviate the need for floats on the cantilevered wings and assist in water operations, allowing step-taxi maneuvers that, to an old floatplane pilot like me, are out of this world.
The cockpit itself might best be described as “sophisticated Spartan,” where everything needed for flight is well-arranged and easily reached, and where seating and control placement are comfortable and intuitive with neither frills nor encumbrances. The view through the canopy is fighter-like: panoramic, unobstructed and optically perfect.
The centerpiece of the instrument layout is the Angle of Attack indicator, a device found in most high-performance military aircraft that, at a glance, assists the pilot in maintaining the aircraft within a safe flying envelope during all phases of flight, especially steep and accelerated turns, slow flight and landings.
Like water operations, ground ops are benign. Gear extension occurs with little pitch change, and once on the pavement, steering is accomplished by differential braking and a castering nosewheel.
In short, the A5 could well be the perfect “air tender” for yacht owners who aren’t interested in a lengthy, complicated and expensive training process—and who want a sexy machine in their toy collection that is versatile, easy to operate, safe and, most important, really fun to fly.