The iconic ICON A5

  • Somewhere along the line or while browsing the forums, I stumbled across an image of the ICON A5. This was one of a my favorite airplanes to fly around Hawaii in the short lived MS Flight.


    The design makes a good attempt to bridge or merge the pleasure boat, introductory general aviation airplane and sports car. Personally, I think they have been successful in the design and prototype office. However, the marketing and promotions have tended to be a bit overreaching.


    Just when it looked like all the kinks were ironed out and it ICON A5 would be showing up all along the beaches and marinas, the black cloud arrived. Two untimely crashes resulting in all occupants deaths put a damper on the deliveries. Both in 2017 when the ICON test pilot and a senior engineer flew into a dead end canyon and smashed into a wall killing both occupants. The more recent one, a high profile retired baseball player crashed while flying alone and practicing high speed dives toward the water. He died when he evidentially misjudged his path and impacted the water at near full speed. Both were attributed to pilot error.


    The first exbibit of the ICON A5 was at AirVenture in 2006 and as you might expect, it was a big hit with the masses. The promotion was that you could have your very own A5 for a measly $5,000 down payment at an estimated $139,000 fully loaded price with delivery in a few years. The few years turned into more than 10 years and the $139,000 more than doubled, actually close to tripled, to the current $389,000 for the fully loaded model.


    This American amphibious light-sport aircraft was designed and produced by ICON Aircraft. The concept aircraft was first flown in 2008, and creation of the production tooling began in December 2012.


    This SLSA, special light sport aircraft, has many new and different design features to appeal to your desire to have fun. This fun is limited to one other person as a time as it is a 2-seater. It looks a lot like a fancy sports car when sitting in the cockpit. It should, the interior design is from BMW. The sleek exterior was designed by Randy Rodriguez at Nissan. Any view of the A5 returns a futuristic image to me. Starting with the seawing platforms that has the dual purpose of providing stability in the water and a convenient platform for entering the cockpit and checking the vitals of the aircraft.


    The Rotax 912 engine comes in fuel-injected or not versions and spins a pusher 3-bladed propeller so the engine sounds level should be minimized in the cockpit. If there are any drawbacks to flying the A5, it is the drone sounds of the Rotax at high rpm, in my personal opinion. The high and rear placement makes it much safer for the crew and onlookers. AFSIK no one has walked into the prop of an A5.


    The extensive use of LED light provides some bright lighting with a very low energy drain, plus they just look good.


    The folding wings so it can be trailered is a nifty feature. Did I mention that it is an amphibian with retractable landing gear? Well, that may be changing. To bring that $389,000 sales price down a bit, ICON is looking at a stripped down version without wheels and a lot less goodies in the panel.


    One of the borrowed features from the Cirrus planes is the full parachute system. ICON got a special waiver from the FAA to bump up the weight limit of the LSA if they installed the parachute system in lieu of the standard spin recovery testing and approval. I doubt we will ever see the parachute animation in AFS2, but it was available in FSX way back when.


    One of the sales lines at ICON is "Awesome comes standard". I like that. The specs are interesting. It has a good useful load - if you can fit in the seats and the stick moves, you are OK. You can also carry 60 pounds of camping gear or other baggage. Very good range with a decent cruise speed. You are not expected to be in a hurry when flying the A5. Takeoff and landing distances are great in the water and not bad on land.


    The visibility from the pilot's or passenger's seat is outstanding. The Rotax engine has always sounded a lot like a chain saw to me, but I have thousands of hours listening to the small Continentals and Lycomings that have a much more muted and sweeter sound.


    The wings twist 90 degrees and fold backwards along the fuselage to make the A5 fully trailer able.


    OK. Now the bad news. The AFS2 version of the ICON A5 is going to be limited for quite some time. Although it flies well enough to enjoy for short flights, it is one of those that requires a total rework. This means a lot of time consuming work so don't expect an improved model anytime soon.


    The Alpha model that I have for review and testing looks great, but the landing gear will not retract so it is in amphibian mode all the time. Well, we don't have any water to land in anyway. The panel gauges or the flaps also do not work. What does work is the propeller animation, the external sounds and the basic flying surfaces like the ailerons, elevator and rudder. The lack of elevator trim is what makes for the shorter flights for me.


    Here are some screenshots.


    Regards,

    Ray








    This is from the ICON website.




    A couple of tidbits that I failed to include.


    In January 2019 the company stated that 90 aircraft had been completed and 1,300 were on backorder. In 2016, the outstanding orders were reported as 1,850. The first production A5 was unveiled at EAA Airventure Oshkosh in July, 2014. The first customer flown aircraft was in mid 2015.


    In May 2016, the company announced that only 20 aircraft would be completed in 2016, instead of the previously planned 175 and that all these would go to training centers. Customer deliveries were announced as being delayed until 2017 at the earliest, due to the need to improve the manufacturing processes to build the aircraft design.


    35% of the customers on the waiting list are not pilots. A Sports Aircraft license is required (~20 hours), not a private pilots license (40 hrs min)


    The ICON A5 is a SLSA - Special Light Sport Aircraft - because it is certified 300 pounds above the LSA seaplane weight limit of 1,430 lbs.


    $85 million dollars was spent in 10 years developing the ICON A5. Cirrus Aircraft was to be the builder, but it was decided to bring construction inhouse at ICON. It is now being built it Tijuana, Mexico with some part built by Cirrus as a subcontractor.


    2:33 min promotional video


    Regards,

    Ray