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'Foldable' twin-seater sport plane to soar in skies

Two seater ICON A5 foldable aircraft being developed by California based ICON aircraft for past three years. PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Have you ever seen or flown a small sport plane which can both take off and land on water or ground, has foldable wings so that you can carry it on your trailer-truck and park it in your garage?

Now this may not remain a dream, as a prototype of the American light-sport aircraft (LSA) which is being tested for the past three years is likely to enter the production line in the second quarter of 2012.

The two-seater ICON A5 is being developed by California-based Icon Aircraft.

Its wings can be folded easily from the cockpit in under five minutes while on water or land.

The company last week announced that it closed a USD 25 million round of equity infusion in June to fund the project through the completion of its ongoing engineering development program, manufacturing setup and the beginning of production of the amphibious sport plane.

The financing was led by investors Satyen Patel and Bart Becht, who have deep expertise in building consumer product companies. Patel has been associated with a top IT- BPO firm and worked at senior positions with global brands like Pepsi-Cola International and Nike.

Icon is looking at India to set up a supply chain base for spares and other essential components, besides trying to focus on the growing market of high net-worth individuals who could be interested in buying this aircraft, Patel told PTI on phone from the US.

Other investors include Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, former Chairman and CEO of Boeing Phil Condit and several top Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

The company was started in 2005 by CEO Kirk Hawkins and COO Steen Strand, who met at Stanford University while pursuing degrees in business and product design, respectively.

"We have a two-pronged strategy for India that will be part of our global strategic plan which will be finalised over the next 3-6 months. India features very importantly in our plans," Patel, who is now on the Icon Board, said.

"The first part of the strategy is to source components for the aircraft, making India an important and reliable supply base along with China," he said.

"We will try to develop a supply chain with Indian firms.

We may also look at starting a sub-assembly in India in the long run," he said while noting that HAL and Indian firms were already manufacturing components for various aircraft produced by Airbus and Boeing, including the super-jumbo A-380s and B-777s. They were also associated with fighter jets like the MiG aircraft series.

"Based on our surveys, we could also look at international production line. But all this has to be discussed and finalised," Patel said.

The second part of the Icon strategy would be to study the market for the A5 planes in India. "It is a fairly affordable product for high net-worth individuals who can carry out short and quick business trips," Patel said.

"We are already looking at markets in the US, Canada, Western Europe and the Middle East," he said, adding that since the aircraft was "an affordable luxury and there are a considerable number of buyers of such products in India, we feel the country has a potential to become a market for this aircraft".

Patel said A5 could be flown for short business trips from a city to satellite locations around it. "You can fly from Pune to Nagpur or Mumbai or from Ahmedabad to Jamnagar or Surat. It has a range of 50 miles with 20 gallons of gas," he said.


ICON A5  India  Aircraft   

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