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Icon's lead test pilot killed in A5 accident

Two Icon Aircraft employees including a key aircraft designer were killed in a crash of an A5 in Napa County, California, May 8, the first-ever fatal accident involving the high-profile amphibious light sport aircraft.

Jon Karkow, 55, was the lead test pilot on the A5 and helped design and refine its folding wings and other air and water control surfaces. The Icon won rave reviews from pilots who flew it for its crisp handling and forgiving nature, characteristics that in most airplanes are at odds with each other. The A5’s spin-resistant design was meant to make it among the safest aircraft in its category.

Karkow was a lead engineer at Scaled Composites before joining Icon and played a central role in designing and building the long-winged GlobalFlyer in which adventurer Steve Fossett set world distance and endurance records.

Tall, thin, thoughtful, and quiet, Maine native Karkow was credited with giving the elegant-looking A5 extraordinary flying qualities and obedient water handling.

Cagri Sever, 41, had recently moved to Icon’s headquarters in Vacaville, California, from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photos of the crashed airplane appear to show that it struck the shoreline at Lake Berryessa, a scenic lake in Napa where Icon does the bulk of its flight training on the West Coast.

Icon Founder Kirk Hawkins said in a Facebook post that the loss of Karkow and Sever was a heavy blow.

“This was a devastating personal loss for many of us,” he said. “Please hold your calls and requests for a brief period while we work through this tragic event with the family members and employees. The thoughts and prayers of our entire organization are with the families of both people on board, they were both truly amazing individuals.”

About 20 Icon A5s have been built and logged more than 3,500 flight hours collectively. The first mishap involving an A5 took place April 1 in Miami, when an airplane with two Icon employees aboard was damaged in what the company described as a “hard water landing” that broke the hull.

Icon has orders for 1,800 aircraft but has struggled to produce airplanes in volume, and its plans to deliver aircraft to customers is far behind its original schedule.

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
Topics: Light Sport Aircraft, Accident

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