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home : local news : local news May 24, 2016

8/28/2014 10:25:00 AM
Palestine company's parts become part of a new seaplane
The ICON A5 was on display at the  Oshkosh air show. Once it gets FAA approval, plans are to manufacture 500 of the planes a year. (Graham Milldrum photo)
The ICON A5 was on display at the Oshkosh air show. Once it gets FAA approval, plans are to manufacture 500 of the planes a year. (Graham Milldrum photo)
A Palestine business recently had its work on display at one of the largest airshows in the world.

Flying S Aviation had built several parts of the ICON A5 aircraft that was on display at the Experimental Aviation Association's AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.

The seaplane is manufactured in California, with some parts made by the Flying S team.

Owners David and Penny Shaw and several of their approximately 20 employees went to the event.

Penny Shaw said seeing the Flying S logo on the airplane was "pretty cool."

She said that it was also impressive for her and the employees to see the various parts they had worked on, painted up and mounted on a functional airplane.

The ICON A-5 operates with one propeller engine, which is pointed rearward over the fuselage. It is a two-seater, with wings designed to fold up for storage or transit.

It can be towed behind a vehicle to a runway or lake. The trailer to carry the airplane is sold separately.

Current specifications list it as requiring less than 750 feet of takeoff and landing distance.

The parts Flying S produced included flaps, the rudder, elevator and pieces of the engine cowling.

Flying S is located in rural Palestine, where the Shaws began operation in 2001, primarily as engineers. They expanded from their combined workshop and home to a newly built facility in 2012.

The company received the plans for the resulting products, designing the molds and manufacturing on CNC mills.

Then workers layered glue-impregnated carbon fiber sheets into the molds before baking them for hours in a high-temperature oven.

The final parts were sawed and sanded before being shipped out to the plants that would manufacture the plane.

David Shaw said carbon fiber is an excellent material for seaplanes, because of its durability, low weight and corrosion resistance.

ICON announced it would be assembling the airplane in a plant in Vacaville, Calif. and plans to manufacture up to 500 a year once they receive FAA approval.

The airplane is intended to compete in the light sport category, created by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2004.

"The most significant change in FAA regulations in 50 years, (light sport) allows easier and lower-cost access for those wishing to participate in the joy of flight," said the EAA.

In most cases, a pilot can pass the medical requirements with a driver's license, operating under its restrictions, the EAA said.

The category is between a private pilot certificate, with its medical requirement and flight time rules, and the complete open ultralight category. The light sport category is more accessible than private pilot, but allows control of larger and more powerful aircraft than an ultralight.

The airplane was the first production flying model, meaning it was built in the same manner the company intends to use for full-scale manufacture.

However, the test aircraft still need to go through the FAA's approval process before the planes can be sold.

Having a flying aircraft "really is a huge milestone," said David Shaw. A lot of designers do not reach that point, he said.

It also shows the effectiveness of the planned production system, he said.

The airplane on display was the first production version, called ESN-1.

"ESN-1 performed very well on its first flight," said ICON Test Pilot and Lead Aero Engineer Jon Karkow in a press release. Karkow flew the airplane.

"Its flight characteristics are similar to the proof-of-concept aircraft, which logged over 700 flights, with the same responsive character and control harmony."

Although the aircraft is projected to stand at 7.1 feet tall, that is primarily the tail. The crew compartment is much lower, with platforms to allow for easier entry and exit on water.

The interior and controls are laid out much more like a sports car than an airplane. This was a decision to make the transfer for light sport pilots easier, said the company in a release.

Other important improvements for newer pilots is the angle of attack indicator and spin-resistant wing, said David Shaw. The indicator helps clearly monitor aircraft performance while the wing helps prevent dangerous spin conditions from developing that can kill novice or experienced pilots.

The airplane is projected to sell for $189,000. However, the FAA requires that aircraft in this class have an aircraft parachute, which pushes the cost up near $205,000. There are a number of options for the airplane, including eliminating the retractable landing gear to make a pure seaplane.

The company plans to begin making deliveries to customers in May of 2015.

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