How LSA workS

Yachts International - - Sternlines - For more in­for­ma­tion: 704 564 4000, iconair­craft.com

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.

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