A pilot and passenger died in the crash of an ICON amphibious aircraft Monday morning on Lake Berryessa in Northern California, not far from the aircraft manufacturer’s headquarters in Vacaville. Pilot Jon Murray Karkow, 55, and passenger Cagri Sever, 41 were both employees of ICON.
Last year Autoweek had spent a day piloting an ICON A5 just like the one that crashed. The plane is classified as a Light Sport aircraft, a new FAA category for planes suitable for wider range of pilots than those who fly, say, Cessna 150s and Beechcraft Bonanzas. The A5 requires only a sport pilot’s license, which is easier to get than a private pilot’s license.
When we flew it we found it very easy to control. The A5 was designed to be virtually stall-proof. We pulled all the way back on the stick and, while the plane flew much slower in that attitude, it did not stall. New technology in a number of areas combines to make the plane safer, including “cuffs” on the wings to prevent stalls.
As we noted in our review, “…the plane was a piece of cake to control…”
Karkow was not just an amateur sport pilot, however. He had flown and designed airplanes for a number of companies, including 21 years at Scaled Composites in Mojave Calif. According to avweb.com “…Karkow was well known in the industry and had come to Icon in 2007 after 21 years at Scaled Composites. At Scaled, he led more than 20 aircraft programs and five complete airplanes including the record-breaking, around-the-world Virgin GlobalFlyer, which won him a 2006 Aeronautics Laureate Award from Aviation Week & Space Technology.
Karlow also served as the technical program manager for SpaceShipTwo. A licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic, Karkow received a BS in Physics at Kenyon College and a BS in Aeronautical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was test pilot for the first flight of the Icon A5. He was an active pilot and experimental test pilot with instrument, multi-engine, seaplane, helicopter and glider ratings.”
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reported that Karkow, 55, “…was the lead test pilot on the A5 and helped design and refine its folding wings and other air and water control surfaces.” About 20 Icon A5s have been built and logged more than 3,500 flight hours collectively, AOPA said. Another mishap involving an A5 took place April 1 in Miami, when an airplane with two Icon employees aboard was damaged in what the company described as a “hard water landing” that broke the hull. Icon has orders for 1,800 aircraft but has struggled to produce airplanes in volume, and its plans to deliver aircraft to customers is far behind its original schedule, according to AOPA.
No cause was given for the crash, which is under FAA investigation.