Is it a boat? is it a plane? It's both

Introducing the Icon A5

3w ago

First things first: What is it?

The Icon A5 is a light-sport aircraft, which can land, take off, and propel itself through water. Imagine for a moment that you wanted to get away for the weekend and go to a remote beach or lake where you can do some swimming or fishing without being bothered. The area is inaccessible by any sort of land vehicle, so your only option is a plane. A float plane.

The problem? Just look at it

The majority of float planes are quite large and bulky and can be tricky to fly and land in the water. The Icon A5 aims to change this, with its lack of pontoons, retractable landing gear, and its lightweight, aerodynamic design. Another advantage of having no pontoons is that the A5 is able to drive around in the water, much like a speed boat, which is something normal float planes are unable to do.

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Exterior Design

As one can see from the photos the Icon A5 doesn't really look much like your typical airplane. Some might say it even looks car-like. This was intentional on Icon's part. Icon wanted their airplane to look approachable and easy to fly to the public, while also looking thoroughly modern. As a result, Icon hired Nissan designer Randy Rodriguez to design the exterior.

For the A5's design, Icon used pretty much every trick in the book. To make the A5 more aerodynamic, Icon placed the engine and the prop towards the back of the aircraft in what is known as a pusher configuration. Another advantage of this engine placement is that it increases the aircraft's stability.

The A5's use of "seawings" rather than traditional pontoons, allow for retractable landing gear while also allowing the aircraft to be used as a boat, being able to "drive" around on the water. These seawings also increase the airplane's hydrodynamic stability.

Another great feature of the A5's design are its foldable wings, which allow it to be stored in smaller spaces or to be safely towed behind a vehicle without being in danger of hitting anything.

To keep the A5 light, and in the LSA (Light Sport Aircraft) category, the airframe, much of the interior, the prop's spinner and other small components are made out of a carbon fiber composite, allowing the A5 to weigh in at just 1,001 LBS (454.046 Kg).

Interior Design

As mentioned earlier in the article, Icon wanted their airplane to be simple, intuitive and easy to use, all while being high tech and modern looking. To reach these goals, Icon worked directly with BMW's Designworks and later with Lotus Engineering. As a result, the cockpit is easy to use, having few instruments, knobs and buttons to deal with. The cockpit is also very nice to look at with its carbon fiber accents, easy to read instruments and silver trim pieces.

For avionics, Icon has three options: Garmin Area 796, Garmin G3X or Garmin G3X Touch. All three options come with 3D terrain mapping, electronic flight bag capability, as well as MFD and PFD options. Opting for the Pricier G3X will get you ADS-B in and out, while opting for the Touch will get you autopilot capabilities.

Engine and Specs

The Icon A5 comes with an electronically fuel injected, 1.4 Liter 4-cylinder Rotax 912iS sport engine that puts out 100 HP. This particular engine is designed to be lightweight, efficient, reliable and simple with TBO (time before overhaul) being 2,000 hours. Engine maintenance and running costs are relatively low with with a fuel efficiency rating of 3.8 gallons per hour. Speaking of fuel, the Rotax 912iS sport can be run on your typical 100LL, or 91 octane auto gas.

Price: $269,000 - $389,000

Engine: Rotax 912iS Sport 100 HP

Range: 427 NM

Max Speed: 95 KCAS (109 mph) (176 kph)

Cruise Speed KTAS: 84 (95 mph)

Takeoff Distance: Runway 640 ft / Water 840 ft

Landing Distance: Runway 590 ft / Water 700 ft

Max Takeoff Weigh: 1510 lbs (686.4 kg)

Baggage (Max): 60 lbs (27.2 kg)

Stall (Clean/Flaps, KCAS): 45/39


The Icon A5 is designed to be an extremely safe airplane. Along with being extremely stable and easy to fly, the A5 has many built in safety features which I will go over below.

AOA indicator: An angle of attack indicator (AOA) is a device which gives the pilot a visual representation of how much lift the aircraft is generating at any given moment. This device can be used to show the pilot where the critical angle of attack is (the highest angle you can pitch the aircraft before a stall occurs.) While simple, this device can be a life saver.

ICON Parachute System (IPS): The IPS is a built in parachute which can be deployed from the cockpit in case of emergency. Icon claims that this system has saved more than 300 lives, some at altitudes as low as 300 feet.

Spin-Resistant Airframe (SRA): A spin is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to an aircraft. An estimated 41% of all pilot related fatalities are caused by spins. In a spin, one wing becomes more stalled than the other and the aircraft begins to spiral while falling to the ground. After thousands of hours of testing, Icon claims to have created an aircraft that is impossible to spin. They have done this by shaping the wings in a unique way and with special leading edge devices. By doing this, Icon has made their airplane much safer.

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The Icon A5 is one of my all-time favorite airplanes. The amount of engineering that goes into one of these things is incredible to me and for that reason I love it. The Icon A5 represents the ultimate recreational vehicle.

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