'Sexy as a sports car': Remaking the GA marketplace

ICONWith a sports-car design and a snowboarder attitude, the ICON A5 light sport aircraft invites you to forget what you think you know about the future of general aviation manufacturing.

ICON Aircraft CEO Kirk Hawkins is trying to remake the marketplace with an aircraft he says appeals to why pilots start flying in the first place: the sense of freedom and adventure. Join AOPA President Craig Fuller at Center Stage on Friday, Nov. 6, at AOPA Aviation Summit for "ICON-oclast," an interview with Hawkins, to find out more about the sleek new A5 and Hawkins's provocative conclusions about the GA marketplace

In both marketing and design, ICON rejects the common philosophies within the aviation industry and looks for inspiration from jet ski, motorcycle, and snowboard manufacturers. The company unveiled its sleek, folding-wing amphibian, the A5, at a star-studded Hollywood party instead of an industrial hangar. The aircraft is currently undergoing flight testing.

Dubbed "sexy as a sports car and as portable as a jet ski" by Wired Magazine, the A5 is made from carbon fiber, has wings that fold manually or at the touch of a button, and is designed to travel on a trailer like a ski boat or a jet ski. It can enter the water at a boat ramp and won’t require airport hangar space.

Call it fun. Call it a thrill. But don't praise its utility. Hawkins throws arguments about GA's role as a business tool out the window. He says general aviation manufacturers have lost touch with the things that make flying unique and attractive, and the key to the industry's future is the LSA category. The A5 is designed to take advantage of the category's potential to appeal to an audience beyond GA's typical reach: It's just plain fun. Hawkins is looking to tap into consumer demand from adventure-seeking nonpilots who could easily transition from sports-car enthusiast to sport pilot.

"ICON-oclast" will be on Center Stage on Friday, Nov. 6, at 2:30 p.m., at AOPA Aviation Summit. Summit takes place Nov. 5 through 7 in Tampa, Fla., and expands on the popular AOPA Expo. Register for Summit today!

October 16, 2009