Tampa, Florida (CNN) – When it comes to flying a plane, I have zero experience.
In fact, I haven’t even thought about trying it.
Still, as we sink in Florida’s Tampa Bay on a beautiful November morning, I enthusiastically take control of the ICON A5, a two-seater amphibious plane that looks like a sports car, maneuvering like a jet ski, and so intuitive. , the company says even a novice can learn to fly in less than 30 hours.
23 feet long and weighing 1,510 pounds, it is known as a light sea sport aircraft.
Designed to help you focus on freedom of flight without worrying about whether the plane will react unpredictably, there is nothing else on the market.
Now that I’m in control, my whole body stops for five minutes. Am I really ready to drive this shiny new machine? I’m not entirely sure.
However, I take comfort in that the A5 was created specifically for people like me, and was designed to drive like a car.
Also, the fact that Icon CEO and founder Kirk Hawkins is by my side in the booth doesn’t hurt either. You can take control at any time.
So far, so good.
We glide smoothly through the air at about 1,000 feet and I’m comfortable enough to visit. The charming park of Fort De Soto does not disappoint.
Sleepy white dune squirrels are surrounded by water that looks like it should be in the Caribbean.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, with its series of long cables, is equally impressive.
The adrenaline is still running. And like most surreal experiences, it keeps getting better.
For starters, there’s another ICON A5 on my left, which is exhilarating in itself. We want in training and my job is to mimic their movements. Think this would be intimidating, but it’s not.
It’s just fun.
This is music for Hawkins ears. He is the brains behind this new broken plane, an idea he did 10 years ago.
As a former F-16 Air Force pilot and a graduate of Stanford Business School, he has focused most of his adult life on making sport flight available to the masses.
“The idea for us was to create a plane where the average human being can go out and experience the world without having the burden of becoming a professional pilot,” he says.
So it makes sense that the dashboard looks like what you see in the car. I don’t recognize just a few calibers.
“It’s Apple’s approach to things,” he says. “You humanize it and you make it intuitive and easy and fun.”
It’s so safe that people will want to fly (and buy) their planes that they just opened a flight training facility at Peter O. Knight Airport.
Located on Davis Island, five minutes from downtown Tampa, it’s a place where both beauty and sailboats abound.
The company’s other training center is in Vacaville, California, where ICON is headquartered.
Wide eyes and open windows
At 9 a.m., it’s time for a short water landing song.
Hawkins takes over the controls. I’ve been very busy learning to fly in training (not something pilots don’t try very often) and I even interviewed Hawkins thinking about learning how to make a water landing myself. It’s something Hawkins tells me most people can master in about 30 minutes.
A few negative turns and 360 degrees later and it becomes a fun roller coaster ride in the sky. Plus, it’s an outdoor flight, so I occasionally pull my arms out. Just because I can.
A few hundred meters above the water, it is easy to find a navigator that shakes us, a herd of pelicans and even bites.
“We’re going to go here and stop and go out for a second,” he says.
Sure you’re kidding, right? But after landing the plane in the water, he takes off his seat belt, and I realize he’s not.
A few seconds later, he drops the roof and climbs on the wings, which could easily bend like diving boards. Suddenly, this feels less like an airplane outing and more like you’re in a boat sunbathing.
Everything is cloudy in a wonderful golden hue. I imagine myself picnicking on the nearby beach. Or taking a plane somewhere for a remote weekend camping trip.
Because the plane has a range of about 430 miles in a full tank, it is designed for short getaways.
“All of this is about inspiring people,” he explains. “Once you learn to fly, you’ll never be the same. Look at the sky differently, you’ll see the planet differently.”
Designed to facilitate flight
“The main motor skills to operate an airplane are pretty easy,” Hawkins tells me. “We have people landing on their own with an instructor on the same first day, in 30 minutes.”
That said, they have taken the time to design it for safety. The goal of the turn-resistant infrared feature is that if the pilot makes mistakes, the plane does not lose control.
As a backup, there is a complete parachute with the plane.
“The rotational resistance function is very important, as it’s the first aircraft the FAA has considered to be resistant to rotation,” says Chris Dupin, a flight instructor and U.S. Air Force officer. “A significant number of general aviation fatalities are from the loss of control accidents involving an undiscovered turn at the base to the final turn.”
In addition, there is the angle of attack indicator, which you do not normally see in a light aircraft. It shows you where the wing is happy (in green) or where it can stop (in red).
The pilot’s job is to keep the wing within the green or yellow section of the caliber. That’s part of what makes water takeoffs and landings so easy to learn.
Becoming a barnstormer
“Kirk Hawkins has an extremely creative and innovative idea for pilot training that is more intuitive; first teaching the feel of flight and the mains and structure, not unlike how people learn to drive,” says Christine Negroni , veteran aviation journalist and author of “Crack Detectives.”
“The world is facing a shortage of pilots, so the idea of teaching differently, so that different learning styles can be accommodated could very well expand the set of pilot candidates.”
In this note, about 40% of the people who have deposited deposits for the ICON A5 are not pilots, which means that this aircraft attracts novices from aviation.
After an hour and a half of flight time, Hawkins takes us to the airport runway, a maneuver that can be tackled after having mastered several water landings. It is a bit more complicated as it requires more precision and knowledge about trailers.
At this point, if I owned this plane, I would hook it up to a trailer, fold its wings up, drive it home, and park it in the garage.
Get some air
If you want your own ICON A5, go online. More than 1,800 customers have dropped their deposits.
For those who aren’t willing to charge $ 207,000 to buy one, there’s the option to stop at the ICON training facility in Tampa or at the Vacaville, California facility , to fly the day.
The Sport Flying introductory class is 1.5 hours for $ 595. To include your sports driver’s license, you will need to spend an additional 20 hours and prices vary.
Sarah Sekula is a video presenter and travel writer in Orlando. Follow his adventures @wordzilla and @wordzillapics.