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FAA Grants Icon A5 Weight Increase
It took 14 long months but in the end the FAA sided with Icon Aircraft by granting a weight increase of up to 250 pounds for the A5 light-sport amphibian. Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins announced at an AirVenture press conference this morning that the good news means the company can increase the A5's max takeoff weight to 1,510 pounds and put the sleek LSA on a fast track toward production.
Icon asked the FAA for an MTOW increase above strict LSA standards to incorporate airframe and wing changes that the California company says comply with Part 23 spin resistance standards. In a July 24 document granting the weight increase, the FAA said it favored Icon on the merits of the petition and not on competitive considerations.
"The FAA has determined that the Icon A5 provides an equivalent level of safety, and may in fact exceed the level of safety provided by aircraft that meet" LSA standards, the document stated. "The FAA has determined that granting relief from the MTOW for LSA for this specific safety enhancement is in the public interest and is also consistent with the FAA's goal of increasing safety for small airplanes."
Hawkins would not divulge "the secret sauce" of precisely how Icon achieved spin resistance in the A5, but he said it involved a combination of wing and airframe changes, including incorporation of a larger wing, bigger tail and additional structure to support them. Though Icon asked the FAA for a 250-pound weight increase, Hawkins said the company will need only 80 pounds of that, making the A5's new MTOW only slightly higher than the current 1,430-pound LSA limit for amphibians.
No FAA pilot has flown the airplane to verify Icon's claims, and that in part is what led to the lengthy delay in granting the request. Instead, the company's own test pilots performed the spin resistance testing to Part 23 standards and Icon certified to the FAA that the design does indeed meet or exceed those standards.
Other safety enhancements that the FAA considered in granting the petition included the A5's BRS ballistic parachute, angle-of-attack indicator and Rotax 912is fuel-injected engine. All of these added to the final weight of the A5 and, predictably, they also will result in a higher price. Hawkins said the new price of the A5 has been set at $189,000 in 2013 dollars, versus $139,000 when the airplane was first announced.
Icon has secured $60 million in additional funding that Hawkins said is sufficient for the company to launch production. Testing of four production-conforming airplanes will start next spring, with first deliveries to follow at some point after.