Special Guest Contributor: Jiri Marousek
There is a universal truth of the machine heart: Horsepower doesn’t matter. Performance is irrelevant. Luxury, dare I say on these very pages, is a myth. The real greats don’t prove themselves by the facts on a window sticker. The real greats connect to the heart of the petrolhead. No paperwork required. I am a sucker for that vibe, and as one of the few mere humans that have now had the opportunity to actually fly the Icon A5, I have found yet another new soulmate.
So what’s the short story? I have been flying for barely 4 years and this was my first flight as a pilot in command of a seaplane and the experience was transformative. It’s as if I skipped forward to the good stuff. Like passing over the first sip of dad’s beer, a glass of easy drinking pinot and went straight for a bottle of Macallan “M”.
But there are some obvious shortcomings to the A5. So before we get to the good stuff, let’s get those out of the way first. This plane won’t take you on a vacation. It will barely hold a handbag when you jump in with the friend of any size. And at $189,000, It’s not cheap. (OK. Price tags matter a little.) By all measures on paper, this aircraft is not a transportation machine and not a great performer.
Now that we have that out of the way. Let me be unequivocally clear: none of that matters. What counts, especially for the designers of the Icon A5 and the man behind the machine, Kirk Hawkins, is about how this makes you feel. A vintage Land Rover can’t take a corner at any decent speed without scaring occupants to death. And nobody cares. Why? Because that’s not the point of the machine. It’s soul is happier on an adventure in places no other vehicle would dare wander.
In this case, being just a mere mode of transportation is not the point of the Icon A5.
So what is the point of the A5? It’s that the it absolutely kicks ass at taking pure aviation lust and turning into something mind-blowingly physical. Flying has always been a dream, a thrill, a way to take oneself to a place where most humans simply don’t belong. We just forgot that over the years, especially as we have been mostly relegated to back seats of flying Greyhounds – heck one of the largest aviation manufacturers is named Airbus.
The Icon A5 is the absolute antithesis of that.
The Icon A5 is designed to remind you of the truth about flying. Flying kicks ass. Flying is a full body experience. Flying, the real flying, will make your face hurt for hours because you have been grinning like an idiot. Like I did. (Submitting the photo as evidence.) The A5 reminds the world, you can go fly, or you can have less fun doing just about anything else. It’s up to you.
So after an hour of flying the A5, here are today’s three oil-soaked observations about this machine:
One: You are not going fast, you are few feet above water, windows opened, zooming around to the great chagrin of boaters all around; your brain signals, you might as well be going warp speed. It’s the feeling of a little boy’s first ride on a motorcycle, in three incredible dimensions and completely untethered from terra firma.
Two: The A5 flies like a dream. It’s a high tech machine and can do things most planes can’t when it comes to staying in the air and keeping you flying safely. It incorporates a boatlaod, okay planeload, of new technology: the folding wing design, car-like instrument panel, airframe emergency parachute, etc. Happily, all this new tech doesn’t make the machine sterile like what happens to most cars as they get high tech. The opposite happens here. The plane is alive. Organic. It talks to you. It’s forgiving, and will tell you when it’s administering that forgiveness without hurting you. Stalls? Non event.
Three: Cliché alert. This plane isn’t, and will not be for many years to come, a toy for the introvert. This is the BMW i8 of light sport aircraft. It draws attention everywhere it goes and rightly so. Most planes do and especially seaplanes. But somehow this stunning design, jet boat like proportions and grinning occupants seem to make everyone that looks up smile, wave and frequently, clap.
The Icon A5 is simply the most modern, most versatile most fun recreational flying experience you can have today. There is much more data I could include here to prove that. But the real proof that I am not just feeding you a load of bullshit, is in this photograph.
After flying the Icon A5, I pulled my checkbook out of my pocket, put down a deposit and will soon be the proud owner of one. What more could you possibly need to know?