Parkzone's versatile amphibian tested
It’s little surprise that Parkzone turned to the A5 as the subject matter for their first offering that can operate from water - for several reasons the Icon corporation’s A5 is quite an extraordinary aeroplane.
For a start there’s the stylish appearance both inside and out, not forgetting that it’ll land on grass, it’ll land on water, the wings fold back and you can tow it home.
Add the fact that it’s being built by a new company that gained the best part of 1000 orders (139,000$ each) before the first aircraft was certified and a third of those who ordered aren’t even pilots and you have a machine that, according to the aviation press, is "poised to re-define the general aviation world".
Available for the last twelve months and designed in conjunction with the A5’s makers, Parkzone say the model has a scale outline. It's moulded using EPO foam and goes together quickly and easily, they’ve even included a little foam stand on which to place the model if you fly without wheels.
It’s for intermediate pilots in both BNF and PNP packages – in other words with or without a Spektrum AR600 receiver, 2200mAh 3S Li-Po battery and charger.
Assembly is so straightforward as to barely warrant comment, the instruction manual is excellent and the Icon slots together accurately and without fuss. The moulded plastic, magnetically retained hatch cover is heavy but presumably that’s to add some much needed weight at the front. Strong magnetic catches and a thick rubber seal around the hatch edge work well to ensure water doesn’t get in where it’s not wanted but, sensibly, the receiver and ESC live out of harm's way on shelves below the wing l/e. The elevator servo too lives high within the fin.
The model is supplied with fixed undercarriage and a nose wheel steering linkage is also included. I’ve made a few flights with the gear in place but, to be honest, the drag is notable and it’s a smoother, nicer flying machine without.
With care it’s possible to hand launch the Icon although it will get away from a smooth wet grassy surface too and belly-landing on grass should pose no problems. Use the manual for the C of G and control throws, they’re fine starting points, Spektrum DX7 and DX8 owners can download model settings if they prefer.
The power system delivers 250 watts, 22 amps peak which is enough to endow the model with a modestly sporty performance - there are better aerobats out there of course and while the machine can be coaxed through some gentle aeros, that's not what it's really about. You'll like the raspy noise from the pusher-prop that adds to the model's flying appeal. You will notice a Dutch-rolling, fish-tailing trait sometimes at lower throttle settings but a small throttle increment is normally all that's required to cure the effect.
Remove the wheels and steering arm, pop on the gear door covers (remembering not to loose the nose cover's o-ring seal) and you're ready to take to the water. The Icon is best operating from water during calm periods when there's little hint of a breeze - the photos here were taken in gusts of 12mph+ and in these conditions the rudder will have no effect on steering. The rudder is effective in calm conditions but, in a breeze, the machine must be lined up manually and the throttle gunned before the model is released. It's important to abort take off if a wing starts to dig into the water but this is just a sign that a crosswind element is hitting the model.
Generally speaking the Icon is easy to take off from water, with a smooth application of throttle, she'll gently lift off in impressive fashion. If you're worried about digging the nose in then don't be, the model has a good sit in the water and just a slight flare is required when it comes to landing. Come in too fast and you'll run the risk of bouncing down the water like a flat stone but it's all part of the fun, as are intentional touch'n'gos.
The waterproof seal does its job well. A few splashes did come over the nose during my watery test flights and, whether they were responsible or not, all I could find inside was just a couple of tiny water drops.
All told, this model must represent one of the easiest ways of flying from water. The patch I use is flanked by a river that's prone to breaking its banks with temporary lakes sometimes extending out as far as our mown strip so I expect the Icon will see water on more than occasion through the year.
This is already a deservedly popular aeroplane, that it's well made and fitted with quality components is what we've come to expect from Parkzone. Superb!
Name: Icon A5
Model type: Scale RTF sport and float flyer
Manufactured by: Parkzone
Street price: £145 (PNP)
Fuselage length: 35”
All-up weight: 2lb 13oz
Power system: 480-size outrunner, 30 amp ESC, 9x8 pusher prop (250 watts, 22 amps peak)
Functions (servos): Elevator (1), rudder (1), ailerons (2), throttle via ESC
Snow update - just back from the patch having taken the Icon along for a quick January snow flying session. It performed better than a ski-equipped machine in fact with rise-off-ground take-offs easy to perform with the power available, landings were simple too. The rudder has more authority on snow and will easily steer the machine through soft stuff. The only caveat being that the foam hull will be damaged by frozen snow so soft, newly fallen snow would be better.
This outing has really reinforced the model's strong credentials in my mind. It's a machine that won't come out every flying session of the year but one I'm glad I've got in the hangar when the appropriate weather arrives. You'll struggle to find anything better for a snow covered or flooded patch.
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