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Innovations And Technology Leading To Smaller, Affordable Aircraft

Three IconA5s fly in formation. Credit: Iconaircraft.com
Three IconA5s fly in formation. Credit: Iconaircraft.com
Three IconA5s fly in formation. Credit: Iconaircraft.com

Advancements in technology and innovations are coming at a staggering pace. Consider what our great, great grandparents had in their world and now consider what wonders and advancements our children will encounter.

Advancements in flight are particularly coming at warp speed. Man was earth-bound until 1903 and 66 years later, man was walking on the moon.

Now that we’ve got all that philosophical perspective out of the way … the cutting edge in civilian aviation involves breakthroughs in light, small aircraft that puts civilian aviation in the range for many more people.

In short, it’s not your father’s Cessna anymore.

According to a recent CNN article, a number of start-up companies are building planes that seat from two to five people that have long range and are fuel efficient. Some of the planes feature collapsible wings and can be stored in the same garage where you park your SUV.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration defines “small” (also called “light”) aircraft as “an aircraft of 12,500 pounds or less maximum certificated takeoff weight.” (Depending on the category, according to the FAA, small airplanes can reach up to 19,000 pounds maximum takeoff weight.)

Source: Cobalt
Source: Cobalt

David Loury, a French-born California-based entrepreneur David Loury is close to launching the Cobalt Valkyrie-X (cue Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”). The plane has sleek, sports car looks and is powered by a single piston engine mounted at the rear of the aircraft. It seats five and can travel from London to most of Western Europe without refueling. It has a top speed of nearly 300 MPH.

The company is taking pre-orders with a base price of around $700,000.

Icon Aircraft, a California-based company, has unveiled a two-seat foldable seaplane called the Icon A5. The company claims that “awesome comes standard.”

The base price is $197,000 but tricked-out versions will cost up to $250,000. It can be flown by people with sport pilot license, which can be obtained in about half the time it takes to qualify for a standard pilot license.

Plus, with its foldable wings it fits in most car garages and can be towed over land.

Aviation designer Burt Rutan, best known for his involvement with SpaceShipOne, has designed the SkiGull. Much like the Icon A5, its folding wings allows it to be housed in a single-car garage.

The fuselage hangs below the single engine, gondola fashion, and the cockpit accommodates two. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the SkiGull is its retractable and flexible ski system. It allows the aircraft to land in rougher water than most sea planes. The skis also have small wheels that allow the plane to land on snow or grass.

Much like the innovations in the phone/communication industry, it appears that designers are combining with technology to make aircraft safer and more versatile. Can we be that far away from this?

 

Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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