Icon Aircraft marked the sixth anniversary of the unveiling of the A5 amphibian light sport aircraft by unveiling the first production-conforming prototype at EAA Airventure.

The arrival of the ESN-1 aircraft marks a key milestone as Icon prepares for a delayed entry into service next May and a rapid production ramp-up in 2016.

“This milestone such an important one for us,” says Steen Strand, chief operating officer and co-founder of Icon Aircraft. “It represents the synthesis of production design and production engineering and production thinking all into one airplane.”

Icon plans to complete two more production-conforming prototypes over the next several months, with the second airframe focused on static testing and the third marked for first delivery to a customer.

Under the abbreviated certification trial period for LSA category aircraft, Icon plans to begin the certification process in the second quarter and complete it by May, Steen says.

“The presumption is you know what you’re doing,” Steen says. “So [the US Federal Aviation Administration] is coming in and spot-checking. They’ll come in and say show us how you met this requirement.”

Icon plans to deliver the first 20-25 A5 amphibians in 2015, he says. In 2016, production will ramp to hundreds of aircraft annually, he says. Icon has invested tens of millions of dollars in automated tooling for final assembly, he says.

Icon launched the two-seat A5 in 2008 with plans to deliver the first production aircraft in 2010. The company, however, struggled with overcoming certain design challenges, such as refining the spin-resistant wing.

The delays do not appear to have slowed demand. Steen said that Icon has taken “well over” 1,000 order deposits. During the show, workers in the Icon exhibit were observed holding signs indicating that the 1,299th deposit had been placed.

Demand for the A5 has not gone unnoticed. Airventure also staged the launch of a new competitor – the MVP Aero LSA amphibian.

“Specifically to our category, we like seeing people grow the industry,” Steen says. “As long as they are good airplanes and safe airplanes, the more the better.”

UPDATE: Story amended to correct inaccurate number of deposits placed for the Icon A5.

Source: FlightGlobal.com