Icon A5 An unusual layout two-seater EP scale amphibian from Parkzone…
The full-size 34 feet span Icon A5 is a high-wing flying boat-type amphibious monoplane with a carbon fibre airframe and retractable undercarriage.
It seats two people in an enclosed cockpit and is powered by a single 100hp (75 kW) Rotax 912 ULS engine driving a three-bladed pusher propeller, giving a max speed of 120mph and a normal range from its 20 gallon fuel tank of 345 miles. Fuselage mounted sponsons provide hydrodynamic stability and act as a step for crew and passenger. The wings can be folded aft for ground transport and storage. Equipment includes an angle of attack indicator, an unusual feature in general aviation aircraft. The dashboard is designed to be like a car’s dashboard and an airframe ballistic parachute is available as an optional extra!
A prototype Icon A5 was completed in 2008 and made its first flight in July of that year. In January 2009 the company announced completion of the first phase (27 flights) of a three-phase testing program, including water-handling. In February 2009, the prototype entered the second-phase testing to refine aerodynamic and handling qualities. In June 2011, the company announced that it had procured an additional US$25 million investment, which was “needed to allow the company to complete engineering development work and enter production – possibly as early as next year (2012).”
An updated “spin-resistant” wing began flight-testing in July 2011, and finished in February 2012. The design meets FAR Part 23 type certified requirements by employing a cuffed wing with multiple proprietary airfoils which change along the wing’s span.
In August 2011, the company stated that it had sold positions for 694 A5s, of which 143 were received at the 2011 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show.
In the 2009 IDEA/Business Week Design Awards, ICON (founded by Kirk Hawkins, an engineer and former USAF F-16 fighter pilot) was awarded Gold in the Transportation Design category. The competition included all cars, motorcycles, watercraft, and every other motor vehicle designed in 2008. ICON was also awarded a 2009 Gold Spark Design Award and a Design Distinction in ID Magazine’s Annual Design Review.
As well as reading this review, I thoroughly recommend you use Google or You Tube to check out videos of the full-size aircraft. The aircraft flight potential and its very attractive looks on both land and water must make it one of the most attractive 2 seat lightplanes commercially available today – and will certainly whet your appetite for this Parkzone replica – I couldn’t wait to get it in the air!
Based on the full-size aircraft, this model was apparently designed in cooperation with the Icon factory and has a very accurate scale outline. It can be flown either off land or water with equal ease (a removable, fixed, steering trike uc is supplied) and looks a perfect choice for intermediate to experienced pilots looking for their first waterplane. Constructed from durable white Z-foam, and finished in pre-painted red, black and grey colour scheme, the Parkzone Icon A5 is powered by a 480 size brushless outrunner motor and a 30A brushless esc, matched to a three bladed 9″ x 8″ “pusher” propeller, giving bags of thrust, whilst the included (BNF) 3S 11.1v 2200mah 25C LiPo should provide plenty of duration. In the BNF version (as reviewed), a Spektrum AR6000 Rx just needs to be bound to your Spektrum Tx.
The bright, photo-festooned box, when opened is dominated by the fuselage fin unit, which is supplied complete with crew ‘capsule’ canopy unit, top mounted and shrouded motor, the distinctive sponsons being part of the hull moulding. The wing is in two halves, each half has the aileron servo and linkage fitted and sport a plastic root end fitting that fits inside a female root fitting atop the fuselage motor ‘pylon’. A long carbon tube joiner is a sliding fit in the panels and is positively located at each end, preventing movement in flight. The top mounted tailplane has a plastic fitting that locate the tailplane on top of the fin, held in place by two M3 bolts. Remove the ‘canopy/crew module’ and the Rx and esc are revealed, with the position of the battery indicated by the wrap around Velco strip mounting, right at the front of the nose. What I didn’t notice at first, but realised, reading the instructions is that there are two clear plastic ‘Headlight’ covers fitted into the nose, with the provision to fit to little LED lights as an optional extra. You’ll need a controller (EFLA600) and a pair of blue or white LEDs (EFLA602/603), which will need to be purchased separately.
Finally, a fixed undercarriage is supplied – two mains from pre-formed ali sheet, which need to be screwed into recesses in the bottom of the fuselage/sponson unit, plus a steering wire noseleg, which needs to the linked to the rudder servo by a tiller arm (which retains the leg in position) and a pushrod (both supplied). In the event you intend to fly off water – and I thoroughly recommend you try it – a plastic sealing fitting is supplied to close the noseleg aperture to stop the ingress of water – more of that later.
The excellent instruction manual is a massive 64 x A4 page book, but closer examination shows it to be in four languages, so the pertinent bit for us is just 16 pages, three of which are a safety operation guide and four are a parts list, safe battery operation guide, so the actual ‘put it together’ part is very small – not surprising, because there isn’t a lot to do, anyway! Assembly is restricted to fitting the tail, fitting the wing and joiner tube, connecting the tail linkages (the exact hole in the control horn to be used on aileron, elevator and rudder are shown very clearly in the instructions) and fitting the undercarriage – if you want it!
We flew the Icon off grass without the uc with very little problem, although wet grass is better and off water, it’s just brilliant! In fact, we reluctantly fitted the uc – it is a FULL review, after all, but when it came to the nosewheel, we couldn’t find the supplied stering tiller arm, so we just used a collet to hold the noseleg in place and let the wheel castor. Take off with a castoring nosewheel caused no problem at all – the prop wash over the rudder at take off is more that sufficient to keep the Icon on track during the take off run! I know that steering is needed for effortless taxying, but those small wheels on grass make taxying a chore anyway – and I tend not to taxi medium to small EP models anyway, preferring to carry them onto and off of the strip.
Before starting the short assembly, I had already put the supplied Lipo battery on charge (BNF version only) and, as it was supplied part charged anyway, the battery was ready for installation when the airframe work had been competed (well less than an hours work – although fitting the uc would have added about another 15 minutes). A ‘bind’ lead is supplied already fitted to the Rx (BNF only) which is positioned behind the canopy unit, in the roof of the fuselage, so having placed the battery in its mounting and tightened the Velco strap, the canopy was put back on to check the CG. This is given as 30-35mm back from the wing LE at the root and with the battery fully forward in its mount, the CG was at the front recommended position, which I prefer to set it for initial flights – there is plenty of space to move it back a bit if you prefer, after flight testing. Happy that all was correct, the radio was switched on an the throws and control surface movements checked, corrected, if necessary and adjusted to the recommended throws. High anf low rates are given, but no expo, so it’s down to you and your preferred expo inputs – I use about 30% softening at the centre. All done, it was ready to contemplate the fun bit – the flying!
Specifications Span: 1360mm (53.5″)
Length: 890mm (35.1″)
Motor: 480 size brushless outrunner
Esc: 30A switch mode BEC BL
Battery: 11.1volt 3S 2200 mAh 25C Li-Po (include BNF)
Functions: 4 channel (4 x micro servos fitted) Radio 2.4GHz recommended (Skektrum AR6000 fitted in BNF)
Charger: DC-powered 2-3 cell variable rate LiPo balancing
Price: £249.99 (BNF) £159.99 (PNP)
Flight Report Pilot: Ken Sheppard
The first few flights were off grass and with the uc off, because with a good short spell of weather forecast for a few days, I wanted to try her on water, after the initial testing.
A hand launch was called for the first flight and after checking everything out and range checking with motor off and with it half wound up, it was carried out to the centre of the strip and after a final check of wind direction, it was a gentle breeze, my assistant for the session waited for me to give it full throttle before launching the Icon very smoothly with wings and nose level. The Icon climbed at a healthy angle, showing bags of power and at a safe height, I levelled out, throttled back a bit and started to get the ‘feel’ of her. A tad of aileron trim had her flying straight and level and the control responses felt positive without being ‘skittish’ – very nice and smooth, actually. A couple of circuits to the left and right showed the need for a bit of elevator gave smoother turns and that application of the throttle brought a gentle climb, close it down and there is a comfortable sink – all right there, then. Climb to a good height and try out the stall – the nose goes up and then she will drop a wing quite swiftly, so keep a bit of power on when turning, and don’t fly it too low, too slow, is the order of the day. What can I say, she is a smooth little flier, that will aerobat all the scale type manoeuvres – loops, rolls, reversals, stall turns, Cubans, etc, although I did find a tendency to want to screw out of a bunt, needing a bit of opposite aileron to keep her on track. We managed a tip stall (deliberately at height), by pulling into a turn at a medium speed with the power off, leading me to think that in a tight turn, the rudder and elevator may be blanked by the width of those sponsons, so keep an airflow over these surfaces by keeping some power on at all times, unless on a straight final approach. This is not a criticism of the model just something to bear in mind, due to the unusual fuselage design.
The 3S 2200mAh Lipo gives a good duration, if sensible throttle operation is used – you’re bound to, if you like flying in a scale fashion – we timed 6 or 7 minutes after the first few cycles of the battery. I’ve already mentioned the fixed uc in the main text, so no more about that here, just to repeat that the Icon has power enough to take off grass without it, although wet grass is preferable (not a problem at this time of year!) -it looks better in the air – and you can do great touch and goes, too without fear of damaging the prop! A word about the noise – for a medium/smallish EP model, it is quite noisy, due to the 3-bladed prop being so near to the wing trailing edge – this is the norm with this sort of layout, but at full chat, it is noticeable. Preparing the Icon for its water baptism consisted of consulting the Parkzone information sheet that is supplied with the kit, which recommends removing any water ingress in the fuselage immediately to prevent damage to the electrical equipment – Dooh! I’d never thought of that! In fact, I prefer to make sure that water doesn’t get in there in the first place. The first thing is that if you’ve been flying with the uc, take it off and fit the noseleg cover plate over the hole in the fuselage bottom – then carry a roll of clear self-adhesive tape in your flight box so that at the waterplane site, after connecting the Lipo and doing the usual the systems function checks, tape around the canopy line – all around, mind you (I’m a firm believer in Sod’s Law), using the roll of clear tape. The elevator servo in the fin is hidden behind a plastic shroud plate and so is pretty well protected. Choose a calm day for your Icon waterplane debut. There is no water rudder fitted, so rudder is used with bursts of throttle to turn the Icon – be too heavy throttle handed and the wing can dip and dig in if the power is too excessive, so try out some gentle water steering, first, holding in a bit of opposite aileron to keep the wings level, especially when turning across the wind. The take off straight into wind, or preferably, breeze, is straightforward. Quite a bit of spray is thrown either side of the nose as the speed builds up, but disappears completely when flying speed is reached. No elevator is needed in the initial run and just a tad of up will see it lift off quite stately when the spray stops. Choppy water, without a water rudder will be a bit trickier, but having tried taxying beforehand to get the measure of throttle/rudder co-ordination you will have the confidence to open her up and off. I had a great mornings flying having taken two spare pack with me and the Icon performed very well – changing the battery allowed me to check for any water ingress after each flight, of which there was none.
I think this is a terrific little model and very versatile. My opportunities for flying off water are limited (flying legally, that is!), so the ability to fly off grass without an undercarriage is great. Apart from the possible blanking of the tail in turns on low power, the Icon is vice-less and a real pleasure to fly. Being foam, it is open to hangar rash that invariably comes with transporting a model in one piece – as a result, the review model is becoming a bit tatty, but that’s due to the fact that I’m flying it so much – and loving every minute of flying it. Highly recommended.