Many of us think planes are only for the ultra-rich, politically connected, and status seeking consumers, and in the past that was mostly true. Yet in 2004 the FAA made a surprising regulatory change that created the Light Sport Aircraft License. This positive change lowered the cost, experience, and educational requirements to own and fly a small plane.
Yet it does require the following:
1. Seats: Two (max.).
2. Max. Gross Takeoff Weight: 1,320 lbs. (1,430 lbs. for seaplanes).
3. Max. Stall Speed: 51 mph / 45 knots CAS.
4. Propeller: Fixed-pitch or ground adjustable (thus no jet).
5. Max. Speed in Level Flight (at sea level at standard temperature):138 mph / 120 knots CAS.
6. Engines / Motors: One (max. if powered.).
7. Cabin: Unpressurized.
8. Fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane.
9. Landing Gear: Fixed (except for seaplanes and gliders).
It took well after 2004 for plane makers to engineer and test the types of planes that this regulatory change aimed to address. One such new entrant, plane maker ICON Aircraft, who has gotten a lot of investment capital in recent years, has an inspirational story and I believe will change aviation for average people because of their spin-resistant design (safety feature), and their clever angle of attack (AOA) feature which normally is only on higher end jets and military aircraft! ICON’s CEO Kirk Hawkins is a veteran U.S. fighter pilot and he shows what creative people can do with an MBA when they take school projects to the next level as per the below video.
The ICON A5 is a two seat closed compartment plane that has wings that fold in, lands on water or land, and it can easily be towed with an average car. It currently costs $189,000 but prices will likely come down in the near future as people like me anticipate their increased availably. Part of the reason why this price is a bit higher is the fact that these planes are not mass produced and because there are not enough other plane makers joining this market to thus increase output and lower prices. According to ICON (formed in 2007), “with over 1,000 delivery positions already assigned, the A5 has demonstrated unprecedented and broad market appeal. The A5 has also won numerous prestigious design awards and received prominent media coverage in well-known outlets including Wired, The Wall Street Journal, Robb Report, CNN, CBS, Fox, and the Discovery Channel.”
As this decade moves forward, globalization, the need for travel, crowding of the roadways, GPS navigation enhancements, and other technological advancements will make causal hobby plane ownership an undeniable reality. Taking your plane to work will be the new norm, and lots of plane service stations will pop up somewhat like gas stations but likely more regulated and hopefully with longer lasting or renewable energy. If Apple computer was the innovator behind the personal computer revolution than ICON Aircraft will be the leaders behind the personal aircraft revolution!