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How to Fly the ICON A5 in Southern California

Be it a day trip to Catalina or traveling across LAX from the Valley to Long Beach Harbor, flying the A5 in Southern California offers many adventures for pilots of all skill levels.

Below are a few safety considerations and insights for venturing in and around Los Angeles. Our team often gets asked many of these questions, so hopefully you find the short video clips and overviews a helpful introduction to how A5 Owners explore Southern California.

Can you land the ICON A5 in the open ocean?

While picturesque, Southern California does not have many viable options to land the ICON A5. Strict regulations and a lack of inland waterways mitigates some of the A5’s amphibious capabilities throughout the Los Angeles basin. With this being said, the Pacific Ocean offers some water runways, and when conditions are good, they are a fantastic way to enjoy water flying in the A5.

But when can the ICON A5, a light sport, two-seat amphibious aircraft, land in the open ocean?

There are several “protected” areas in the Los Angles Area for water operations—Point Dume in Malibu and Long Beach Harbor—with operations in the former demonstrated in the short video, above. The ICON A5 is engineered to operate in waves about one foot high, with discernible swells being a primary concern.

ICON provides a throughout transition course to train pilots of all skill levels how to verify when these conditions are safe. But generally speaking, when landing in the open ocean:

      • A high recon should be performed from several hundred feet, identifying the direction of the wind and how it is affecting the water conditions

      • An assessment of the wind conditions aloft can also determine how nearby terrain is likely affecting the water current

Below are some photos illustrating these considerations when landing in the open ocean near Malibu.

As previously stated, the good news is, when the conditions to land the A5 at Point Dume are good, they are often really good. Meaning, the waters are smooth, calm, and allow pilots to enjoy the A5 in one of its most natural habitats.

Peter Weber on Airplane Wing

Finally, while not quite Los Angeles, San Diego Bay offers a reliable destination for water operations (pictured directly above). Located adjacent to the Loew’s Hotel and Silver Strand State Beach, San Diego Bay is a 25-minute flight from Montgomery Field 9KMYF) and is another location in SoCal where ICON teaches pilots in to operate the A5 on the water.

How to fly over LAX via The Los Angeles Special Flight Rules

Los Angeles is notorious for being busy, both on the ground and in the air. New pilots, or pilots not accustomed to flying in and around Bravo airspace, can find the area intimidating. But for pilots looking to traverse LAX, there are the Los Angeles (LA) Special Flight Rules, allowing pilots to fly through the Bravo without gaining clearance. The above video demonstrates the procedures of flying this corridor, which are in short:

      • Squawk 1201

      • Announce Position Reports over 128.55

      • Track the SMO 132 radial (or plug in KSMO — LAX — KTOA in GPS)

      • Fly altitude 3,500 ft MSL (heading southeast)

      • Fly altitude 4,500 ft. MSL (heading northwest)

Given the LA Special Flight Rules aren’t specifically laid out on the VFR Sectional map (they are detailed in the chart supplement) where do the “rules” begin? I.e., at what point would a pilot be “busting the Bravo?” Technically, the “rules” encompass the surface shelf (100/SFC) that occurs at roughly Marina Del Rey to Hawthorne Airport (red arrows depicted below). In this sense, the corridor is only a few miles. To reiterate, pilots who follow the above procedure are allowed to fly through the designated LA Special Flight Rules corridor.

As we try to point out in the above video, the corridor reduces workload for controllers handling traffic into and out of one of the world’s busiest airports. Outside of a flight emergency, there’s no need to state your intentions on any frequency beyond 128.55 so long as you follow the above route and requirements laid out in Los Angeles Special Flight Rules Area section of the Los Angeles Terminal Area chart.

Note, do not confuse the Los Angeles Special Flight Rules area with Special VFR. (SVFR) The latter is listed above LAX on the VFR chart symbol and refers to minimum VFR ceiling and visibility requirements when operating out of an airport with a Class E surface area and is not related to this discussion.

Is landing at Catalina Airport (KAVX) challenging?

Perhaps one of the most iconic destinations in SoCal, Santa Catalina Island sits about 15 miles off the coast of California and invites A5 pilots looking for a unique escape. The unbelievable imagery of the island makes it the most picturesque flight in Southern California, and maybe all of the United States. Flying in an amphibious aircraft offers an additional layer of safety and peace of mind as compared to fixed gear aircraft flying over the open ocean. Sitting at an elevation of 1,602 ft., Catalina Airport (referred to as “Avalon” Airport based on its proximity to the city of Avalon) offers something of an unusual approach. As discussed in the above video, the runway is well known for its tendency to slope upwards and to create optical illusions. Additionally, the departure end of Runway 22 has a significant drop-off, which on occasion can cause strong downdrafts.

Most aircraft inbound to Catalina will be landing at Avalon airport, but given the A5’s amphibious capabilities, water landings are also possible in and around the island. Reference the above video and photos for more information on some considerations to execute water operations safely.

In addition to water flying, there are a some unique activities for pilots to enjoy on Catalina, including:

      • Bike Catalina: Upon landing, pilots and passengers can rent bikes into downtown Avalon. The 10-mile ride is mostly downhill. Upon arrival into downtown, riders can leave their rented bike in Avalon and take a shuttle back to the airport to avoid an “uphill return” (allow three hours for the excursion).

      • Airport in the Sky Restaurant: Open daily from 8:30 to 4pm, the restaurant is adjacent to the Avalon runway and is known for its Bison burgers, brisket, and incredible view.

Flying to Santa Paula Airport from Camarillo

Tucked away in the Santa Clarita River Valley is Santa Paula Airport, the uncontrolled airfield sitting in the “Citrus Capital of the World.” Just a ten-minute flight from Camarillo Airport, home to one of ICON’s Authorized Training Providers, Santa Paula is something of a blast from the past. The airfield is scenic yet quaint, and the town is on the bucket list of many Southern California tourists looking for a unique stop outside of the big city.

For those interested in venturing away from Los Angeles busy airspace on a short flight filled with plenty of scenery and a unique approach, Santa Paula gives pilots plenty to offer.

Interested in leaning more about owning your own ICON A5? Request a demo flight as your first step below.