More weight or less weight?

Icon Aircraft has been (probably not too patiently) waiting for the FAA to answer its formal request for exemption to the Light-Sport Aircraft gross weight parameter for its Icon A5 (pictured).

The Southern California company submitted a proper package to the FAA after carefully laying the groundwork by talking to key leaders in and out of government. The FAA normally replies in 120 days. More than a year passed … and then the Small Aircraft Directorate asked for more detail on the request. One can imagine the frustration level at Icon, despite where you land on the pros or cons of allowing them extra weight.

Meanwhile, on another front, a new ASTM subcommittee was just established as part of a standards writing group that has prepared all the requirements for a fully manufactured Special LSA to be accepted by the FAA. The new group will work on a standard for aircraft weighing less than 120 kilograms (about 260 pounds) for use primarily in Europe. A German official, stating that the German LBA (Federal Aviation Office) wanted to “deregulate” these sub-120 kg aircraft, said all they had to do was create a new standard they could meet. I suppose that’s the government way of non-regulating in rule-driven Germany, but at least it slightly relaxes their grip.

So, Icon is asking for 250 pounds more (114 kg) to be added to the 1,430 pounds (650 kg) it is presently allowed, while an industry group called DULV is working on a standard for aircraft weighing less than 260 pounds in total empty weight. You just have to marvel at the diversity in light aviation.

Perhaps these dual requests illustrate the main message. Even though governments here and abroad are still very much involved in regulating aviation, they have stepped back a few inches (centimeters) from complete control.

When the FAA first released the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rules in 2004, it unleashed the most explosive pace of development aviation has ever seen worldwide. More than 130 new aircraft models of every description came to market in only eight years. If the government, here and abroad, would step back another yard (meter) or two, who knows what might happen?

Good luck to both Icon and DULV as they pursue their chances at greater aviation freedom.

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  1. Greg W says

    I see,”After carefully laying the ground work, talking to key leaders in and out of government”, Icon is upset that the FAA want’s real proof that the design will not spin as justification for the requested weight increase. I do not like the high level of regulation in many things, however ICON should have known going into this what would be required by the LSA rules. The great thing about rules is they are written down and available to all, instead they seem to think the rules do not apply to them. It is ironically good that the regulators have not yet been swayed by the “industry leaders” in this case.Charming the media and getting the publicity of cover photo’s should not change the rules. Meet the LSA rules,price it at a salable level and the A5 may sell. The best bet for the company may well be to keep getting investor money and then bail out with their “golden parachute” while crying regulatory obstacles. That strategy has worked well for many since the 1970’s.

    • says

      Greg; Your on the “money”! Why is it that ONLY aviation tends to draw fool hardy investors – didn’t the same venture capital guys back the “Flying Sandbox”?

  2. Mike Crognale says

    I’m waiting on that weight decision also. If it is approved I plan to buy the Icon A5. If not then I will probably look elsewhere.

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