It's not quite a flying car, but after landing, you can tow the Icon A5 home and park it in a garage. It’s one of the first civilian flyers to feature automated folding wings, which slim down the mini seaplane so it can fit on a custom trailer. (An amphibious version offsets the extra weight of landing gear by trading the motorized wings for a manually folding set.)
The A5 belongs to the FAA’s new “light-sport aircraft” class, whose planes don’t have to go through the same lengthy certification process that discourages bold design in larger planes. That classification freed Icon to develop the folding wings and to install a modern engine that burns unleaded gasoline, whereas most private planes use decades-old, lead-spewing powerplants.
You can fly the A5 with a simple sport-pilot certification, which requires half the training time of a standard license. A cockpit designed with input from carmakers such as Nissan has minimal instrumentation and a GPS navigation system, making the plane easier to pilot.
The wings are designed to minimize the danger of stalling, where they lose lift because the plane is traveling too slowly or its nose is pointed up too high. With the A5, stalling occurs gradually, providing plenty of warning for the pilot.
The plane makes its debut this summer, and Icon has begun taking orders. It expects the first models to touch down in late 2010.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.