Flying a sports car with wings

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<pre><pre>Flying a sports car with wings

Tampa, Florida (CNN) – I have no experience when it comes to controlling an airplane.

In fact, I've never thought about trying it.

As we fly over Florida's Tampa Bay on a beautiful November morning, I enthusiastically take control of the ICON A5, a two-seater amphibious aircraft that looks like a sports car, maneuvers like a jet ski, and is so intuitive, company says that even a novice can learn can fly it in less than 30 hours.

At 23 feet in length and 1,510 pounds in weight, it is known as a light seaplane.

Designed to help you focus on the freedom of flying without worrying about the plane's unpredictable response. There is nothing like it on the market.

Now that I'm in control, my whole body tenses for a good five minutes. Am I really ready to control this shiny new machine on my own? I am not completely sure.

However, I console myself that the A5 was built specifically for people like me and should drive like a car.

The fact that Kirk Hawkins, CEO and founder of Icon, sits next to me in the cockpit doesn't hurt either. He can take control at any time.

So far, so good.

We glide smoothly through the air at 1,000 feet and I feel comfortable enough to see the sights. The beautiful Fort De Soto Park does not disappoint.

Squiggles of dreamy white dunes are surrounded by water, as it should be in the Caribbean.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge with its long cables is just as impressive.

The adrenaline is still racing. And as most surreal experiences go, it gets better and better.

For starters there is an ICON A5 on my left that is exciting in itself. We fly in formation and my job is to mimic their movements. You'd think that would be intimidating, but it's not.

It's just fun.

This is music in Hawkin's ears. He is the head behind this new-fashioned airplane, an idea that has been in the making for 10 years.

As a former Air Force F-16 pilot and a Stanford Business School graduate, he has spent most of his adult life focusing on making aerobatics available to the masses.

"The idea for us was to create an airplane in which the average person can experience the world without the burden of becoming a professional pilot," he says.

So it makes sense that the dashboard looks the way you see it in your car. There are only a few ads that I don't recognize.

"It's the Apple approach," he says. "You humanize it and make it intuitive and simple and cool."

He is so confident that people want to fly (and buy) his planes that he just opened a flight training facility at Peter O. Knight Airport.

Located on Davis Island, five minutes from downtown Tampa, the hotel is a place where both beauty and sailing boats abound.

The company's other training center is located in Vacaville, California, where ICON is headquartered.

Big eyes and open windows

At 9 a.m. it is time for a short stop at the water landing.

Hawkins takes control. I was too busy learning how to fly in formation (which non-pilots often try) and interviewing Hawkins to even think about how to learn to land a water yourself. Hawkins tells me that most people can do it in about 30 minutes.

A couple of negative Gs and 360-degree turns later and it's going to be a fun roller coaster ride in the sky. It's also an open air flight, so I occasionally swing my arms out. Just because i can.

A few hundred feet above the water, it is easy to spot a boater waving to us, a herd of pelicans and even stingrays.

"We'll stop here and get out for a second," he says.

He's kidding, isn't he? But after landing the plane on the water, he takes off his seat belt, and I realize that it is not.

Seconds later he bangs the roof and we climb onto the wings, which could easily serve as springboards. Suddenly it feels less like an excursion by plane, but more like a boat for sunbathing.

Everything is soaked in a mesmerizing golden hue. I can imagine picnicking on the nearby beach. Or take the plane somewhere for a weekend camping trip.

Since the aircraft has a range of approx. 690 km when the tank is full, it is designed for short trips.

"The whole thing is about inspiring people," he explains. "Once you learn to fly, you will never be the same. You will look at the sky differently, you will look at the planet differently."

Designed to make flying easy

"The main motor skills to operate an aircraft are fairly simple," Hawkins says. "We have people who land alone with an instructor on the first day, within 30 minutes."

That said, they took the time to design it for security. The aim of the spin-resistant airframe is that the aircraft does not lose control if the pilot makes mistakes.

There is a complete aircraft parachute as a backup.

"Skid resistance is a big deal as it is the first aircraft that the FAA classifies as skid resistant," said Chris Dupin, a flight instructor and U.S. Air Force officer. "A significant number of deaths in general aviation have resulted from the loss of control accidents that result in an unrecovered base turn to the last turn."

There is also an angle of attack indicator that you would not normally see in a light aircraft. It shows you where the wing is happy (in the green area) or where it could block (in the red area).

The pilot's job is to keep the wing within the green or yellow area of ​​the meter. This is part of what makes learning to take off and land on water so easy.

Become a Barnstorm

"Kirk Hawkins has a very creative and innovative idea for pilot training that is more intuitive. It teaches the feeling of flight first and later the principles and structure similar to how people learn to drive," says Christine Negroni, experienced aviation journalist and author of " The crash detectives. "

"The world is facing a pilot shortage. The idea of ​​teaching differently so that different learning styles can be taken into account could very well expand the pool of pilot candidates."

In this sense, approximately 40% of the people who made deposits for the ICON A5 are not pilots, which means that this plane attracts newcomers to the flight.

After an hour and a half flight, Hawkins lands us on the airport runway, a maneuver you can do after mastering several water landings. It's a little trickier as it requires more precision and knowledge of cross winds.

At this point, if I own this plane, I would attach it to a trailer, fold the wings, drive home, and park it in the garage.

Get some airtime

If you want to have your own ICON A5, put yourself in the queue. More than 1,800 customers have made deposits.

Those who are not yet ready to pay $ 207,000 for the purchase can take a day flight at the ICON training facility in Tampa or at the facility in Vacaville, California.

The induction class for sport flying is 1.5 hours for $ 595. To get your Sportpilot driver's license you have to spend over 20 hours and the prices vary.

Sarah Sekula is an Orlando-based travel writer and video presenter. Follow their adventures @wordzilla and @wordzillapics.