One of the airplanes we’re excited to see next month in Oshkosh is the new Zlin iCub. As the name hints, the iCub brings together an updated version of the classic airplane design, with an Apple iPad front and center in the cockpit that can be used for navigation, checking the weather, or … well, the list goes on.
The idea makes a lot of sense. The airplane belongs to the Light Sport Aircraft category and is aimed at pilots who are looking for a fun-to-fly plane, not a serious transportation machine. So rather than spend thousands of dollars on a purpose-built, Federal Aviation Administration–approved GPS unit, the company instead went with a much more versatile and less-expensive option.
There are numerous aviation apps available for the iPad, including several with aviation-specific GPS navigation including FAA charts and real time weather. Sure an app might crash once in a while, but when you’re flying the iCub, you’re not relying on the iPad as your primary source of information. In fact simply looking down at the ground and comparing it to your sectional chart will always work as a good backup.
With the iPad on board, the pilot will be able to enjoy much of what is offered in expensive aviation GPS units for a fraction of the cost. And after arriving at your destination, you have an iPad that you can pop out of the panel (picture below) and enjoy watching movies, reading a book or whatever you think the iPad is best at doing.Of course, Sport Air USA — the company importing the Czech-built airplane — did not want the person in the backseat to be totally left out of the loop. There will be an iPhone mount for the back-seater that will be able to talk to the iPad by on-board wireless.
As for the airplane itself, the iCub looks like a fun way to fly. With a 100-horsepower Rotax up front and tundra tires, the airplane is capable of landing in back-country landing strips or on the beach. The company says the takeoff run is just under 150 feet, and the plane can land in only 250 feet, impressive numbers for those who enjoy flying to out-of-the-way destinations.
The airplane will come equipped with an iPad 3G with several aviation apps already loaded. There aren’t any photos of the real thing yet, but the company provided the mock-up photo shown here and says the airplane will be at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh. We’ll be there, too, and will be sure to get a close look at this first effort to bring Steve Jobs into the pilot seat.