Icon Publishes Low-Altitude Guidelines

Amphibious LSA maker puts a focus on educating pilots the how-to of low-level flight.

Icon A5
Icon Aircraft's Low-Altitude Guidelines were created to educate A5 owners and company pilots about low level flying.Myles Beeson

With Icon Aircraft ramping up deliveries of its amphibious A5 LSA, the Vacaville, California-based company it putting a focus on educating its owners and company pilots about low level flying. The Icon Low-Altitude Guidelines was developed because this type of flying is “the essence of sport flying and the very reason the A5 was created in the first place,” said Icon’s founder, chairman and CEO Kirk Hawkins in a note to A5 deposit holders and owners.

The Icon Low-Altitude Guidelines has been incorporated into Icon’s training curriculum. The training is mandatory for owners taking possession of their new A5s.

It’s important to stress that experience and comfort level should determine how low a pilot should fly, and knowledge of local terrain and obstacles is critical. Icon generally defines low-altitude flying as flight below 300 feet agl. The area below 300 feet (or whatever altitude the pilot feels comfortable with) is referred to as the soft deck.

In a discussion with Flying, Hawkins said it's critical to "switch modes" when flying in the high-risk environment lower to the ground or water. This means throttling back, slowing down, maneuvering gently and putting a greater focus on scanning the environment for terrain and obstacles.

Icon recommends that pilots who plan to fly at low altitude begin the flight with a briefing specific to the low-altitude segment of the flight. Flying above the soft deck to scan the area for any hazards is recommended. Below the soft deck, Icon recommends maneuvers with no more than 45 degrees of bank and 10 degrees of pitch up or down.

Icon’s Low-Altitude Guidelines also include suggested procedures for confined-area operations and box-canyon reversal. While these procedures are published, pilots should practice them extensively with an instructor to make sure that the maneuvers become second nature. Using the wrong procedures for a quick 180-degree turn to get out of a bad situation at low altitude could be hazardous at best and fatal at worst.

The Icon Low-Altitude Guidelines can be found on Icon's website. Icon is also working on an advanced low-altitude training course to further hone the skills of its pilots. This training focuses on flight below 100 feet agl.