May 23, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
Kirk Hawkins, CEO and founder of Icon Aircraft, has asked the FAA to issue a final decision by May 31 on his exemption request to increase the weight of his Icon A5 amphibious light sport aircraft (LSA) by 250 pounds. He based the request on a new design for a spin-resistant airframe.
A low-resolution drawing in the public portion of the response shows the spin-resistant wing design. The outboard section of the leading edge is cuffed, or drooped downward. Cirrus and the Cessna (formerly Lancair) Columbia make somewhat similar use of this NASA-proven design. When the inboard section stalls, the outboard section, where the ailerons are located, continues to fly, allowing a stalled airplane to be controlled. Icon says additional design was done that makes it a unique and proprietary spin-resistant system.
The weight limit is 1,320 pounds for land-based LSAs and 1,430 pounds for amphibious LSAs. Hawkins asked for an exemption on May 7, 2012, to increase the higher limit of 1,430 pounds by another 250 pounds, to 1,680 pounds, for the Icon A5. It would apply only to Icon’s aircraft.
The FAA first promised an answer in two months, postponed it to the end of 2012 because of the precedent-setting nature of the request, and finally said nothing until April 25, when additional information was requested.
“While we are optimistic that the FAA will ultimately make the decision to support this significant advancement in aviation safety, these types of delays introduce extraordinary costs into our industry and can actually deter safety innovation,” Hawkins said in a letter to Earl Lawrence of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate. It was Lawrence who asked for the additional information.
The Icon will require, Hawkins said in his letter, that new owners get instruction in the best practices for the spin-resistant airframe, and in the angle-of-attack system that will be mounted in the aircraft. There will also be training for mechanics and LSA repairmen on maintaining the spin-resistant airframe.
Inflatable restraints are not part of the design, Hawkins said. “Given the length of time for the FAA to render an exemption decision and the extremely limited weight allowance of the LSA category, inflatable restraints were not incorporated in the current design,” he said in his letter to the FAA. They may be added to later versions of the Icon A5 if the weight exemption is granted.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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