Two Major Design Improvements Simplify Aircraft Operation
LSA Manufacturer ICON Aircraft has announced what it says
are two major design enhancements to improve flight safety and
the user-experience of the ICON A5 aircraft. ICON has eliminated
wing flaps to simplify pilot operations. ICON has also committed to
a spin-resistant design, which will include, among other things,
the addition of wing cuffs. The company says the improvements are
designed to simplify aircraft complexity and increase safety-which
is especially important for new pilots.
"Although these enhancements are not required by the FAA or
ASTM," says Kirk Hawkins, ICON's CEO, "this is yet another example
of ICON raising the bar to not only make the A5 one of the coolest
sport planes on the planet-but to make it simultaneously one of the
safest and easiest to fly. This is absolutely the right move for
the customer and worth the extra work to get there."
While general aviation is inherently quite safe, when accidents
do occur, it is the stall/spin scenarios that are responsible for
13.7% of all fatal accidents, according the Aircraft Owners and
Pilots Association (AOPA). Of these accidents, it is slow-speed
maneuvering prior to landing that is the most common accident
scenario. Making the A5 spin resistant will help ensure that the
pilot maintains control of the aircraft at all times, even if the
airplane is inadvertently stalled.
"Spin resistance is arguably the most significant safety
improvement we could add to the already docile-handling A5," said
Matthew Gionta, ICON's CTO and VP of Engineering. One safety
feature already on the A5 is the Angle of Attack (AOA) indicator
(standard on modern fighter jets) that shows the pilot at any given
time exactly how the wing is flying, and most importantly, how
close they are to a stall. "When combined with the AOA indicator,
spin resistance adds a second level of safety where, in the event
of a stall, the A5 remains wings-level and the pilot does not lose
control of the aircraft."
Removal of the flaps is the other improvement to the A5. Flaps
are typically used to reduce an aircraft's stall speed for landing.
However, Light Sport Aircraft regulations already require that
Light Sport Aircraft stall no faster than 45 knots without the use
of flaps. Given this FAA requirement combined with the LSA maximum
speed restriction, ICON eliminated the A5 flaps since they offer
marginal benefit for their increased complexity.
"When an airplane can function equally well with less
complexity, the result is increased safety," said Gionta. "The
pilot of an A5 will never have to remember to set the flaps for
landing, whether on water or land. This is a classic example where
simplicity is elegance, and that translates directly into a safer
aircraft for our pilots."
ICON Aircraft says it has committed itself to fielding an
aircraft that offers high performance for experienced pilots, while
also being safe and very accessible for novice pilots. These two
design improvements confirm the company's commitment to that
philosophy. Over one third of ICON's current orders come from
individuals who are not yet pilots.