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Aircraft Review: ICON-A5 - VSKYLABS Test-Pilot by VSKYLABS

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Aircraft Review: ICON-A5 - VSKYLABS Test-Pilot by VSKYLABS


By Michael Hayward


The ICON A5 is an amphibious light-sports aircraft produced by ICON since 2016, although its development lies a little earlier with a concept model first flown in 2008. With a focus on recreational flying, it was designed to be simple to fly with familiarity for those that may not fly too often.

The ICON A5 is more than just a typical light-sports aircraft; it's a culmination of careful planning, engineering, and design. Its body, measuring 23 feet (7m) in length, exhibits a compact and efficient design that is ideal for a single pilot. The wide wingspan, which spans 34.8 feet (10.6m), contributes to the aircraft's remarkable stability and control, whether in the air or on water. With an empty weight of 1,080 lbs (490kg), the ICON A5 is lightweight, enhancing its performance and manoeuvrability.


Despite its minimalistic design, the aircraft can still bear a significant load, having a maximum takeoff weight of 1,510 lbs (685kg). The heart of the A5 is its robust powerplant, a single Rotax 912 iS engine that ensures a smooth and enjoyable flying experience.


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In terms of performance, the ICON A5 leaves little to be desired. It boasts an impressive range of 427 nautical miles (491 miles, 791km) that allows for extended journeys or pleasure cruises. It comfortably cruises at speeds up to 95 knots (109 mph, 176 km/h) and has a service ceiling of 10,000 feet (3048m), offering spectacular views of the landscape below.


This combination of features embodies ICON's commitment to creating a truly distinctive and enjoyable flying experience. The company's meticulous attention to detail and focus on performance are reflected in every aspect of the A5's design and operation.


VSKYLABS have been developing aircraft on the X-Plane scene for well over 10 years. Their focus on attention and detail have made them a namesake for high-quality GA and utility aircraft within this platform. In this review, we will take a closer look at their ICON A-5 and see if this aircraft keeps to their standard of quality and functionality.



Exterior Model
The ICON A-5's exterior design is a unique blend that has become iconic in the flight simulator space, being a distinctive mix of boat, car, and aeroplane aesthetics - a testament to the involvement of Nissan engineers in its design.


VSKYLABS has meticulously reproduced the A5's model shape, capturing its unique sleek curves and hybrid design in excellent detail. The resulting look is fantastic and speaks volumes about the developer’s attention to detail.


From the functioning emergency parachute, which comes in handy during emergencies, to the 'Lamborghini' style cockpit entry, details found in the real-world A5 are faithfully replicated. Even the rear-facing propeller, designed to push the aircraft forward – a design feature reminiscent of the Piaggio Avanti, is accurately reproduced.


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The attention to detail doesn't stop there, however. The A5's exterior features high-definition 4K textures across its bodywork, enabling even smaller elements like warning stickers to be readable, greatly enhancing the realism of the A5. Bump mapping technology adds further depth to this detail, highlighting panel gaps and fuselage rivets, thus enhancing the aircraft's lifelike appearance.


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Adding to this realistic representation, VSKYLABS included the wing fold function, allowing the aircraft to maintain a compact shape when on land or docked at sea. This feature, mirroring the functionality of the actual aircraft, again enhances the authenticity of the add-on.


Regarding liveries, only the ICON A5 house colours are provided, aligning with ICON's single-livery offering. This choice allowed VSKYLABS to devote their attention and resources to perfecting this one design, which turned out remarkably well as a result.


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Cockpit & Interior
Many compare the A5's cockpit layout to a car's dashboard, which is not surprising given that BMW engineers were involved in designing the flying console. This unique influence brings a refreshing perspective to the flight deck, straying from the usual aircraft cockpit designs.

Accommodating two occupants (the models of which, are some of the most impressive I have seen in X-Plane), the cockpit features a joystick between each seat, a car-styled dashboard in front of the left seat, and a car-styled glove box in front of the right one. This car-like inspired design continues on the primary flight dashboard, which features all the standard gauges in a car-like design. The result is a stylish, easy-to-read layout that simplifies flying the ICON.


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The centre console houses the standard Garmin G1000 display, the default X-Plane option, which works well within the A5 cockpit. Underneath, you'll find the radio panel, landing gear lever, flaps switch, lighting buttons, and the essential water rudder control for water taxiing.

The cockpit's textures are rendered in 4K resolution, which look fantastic from all angles! From the smooth moulded plastic of the main panel to the carbon fibre along the door sides and A5-branded rugs on the textured floor, VSKYLABS has invested substantial time in detailing the cockpit. The result is a highly realistic representation that adds significantly to the overall flying experience.


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In creating a true-to-life representation of the ICON A5, VSKYLABS has incorporated authentic sound samples from the actual aircraft. While the Rotax 912 may not be a particularly remarkable engine, using real-life audio samples from it allows pilots to hear the smaller, nuanced sounds that they would experience in flight, an effect that is particularly enhanced when using a quality headset. Further enriching the auditory experience, VSKYLABS has implemented FMOD into the A5, which adds depth to the overall sound across the aircraft.


Flight Dynamics
The ICON A5 offers the unique opportunity to delve into the realm of water dynamics, given its amphibious capabilities. With the water rudder deployed, pilots can easily navigate across bodies of water, though it's essential to manage turns carefully due to the distinct difference in friction compared to ground manoeuvring.


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In the air, the A5 is incredibly user-friendly. Despite its seemingly bulky 'sky-boat' build, it's surprisingly nimble, living up to the expectations of a light sports aircraft. Particularly enjoyable are the low, slow flights over coastal terrains. However, it's worth noting that the A5 performs best at lower altitudes, making it perfect for scenic trips. Its user-friendly nature and straightforward controls mean that you'll feel comfortable flying it within minutes. But beware of lake landings, as the water can often be deceptively closer than it appears!


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In terms of in-sim performance, the VSKYLABS ICON A5 really stands out, as my testing showed minimal stutters or lag. What's truly commendable is how the ICON A5's framerate matches up to that of the default X-Plane 12 Cessna, a notable achievement given the level of detail that the ICON A5 presents. Granted, my setup boasts a high-end graphics card, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, but even taking this into consideration, the performance is still exceptionally good.


Opinion & Closing Remarks
The ICON A5 has undoubtedly earned its status as an icon in flight simulation (pun not intended!). As a default aircraft for both Microsoft Flight Simulator and Microsoft Flight, it has proven its versatility for land and sea flying, making it a staple in the realm of flight simulation. Though its real-life history has been mixed, its simulator counterparts have enjoyed widespread success.


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VSKYLABS has done an outstanding job in recreating the A5 within X-Plane, presenting one of the highest-quality general aviation aircraft on this platform. Furthermore, its unique design sets it apart from the crowd, so if you're in search of a distinctive aircraft that combines flair, style, and the capability to operate both on land and sea, the VSKYLABS ICON A5 Project should be at the top of your list.






The ICON-A5 - VSKYLABS Test-Pilot is available from the Org store here:


Priced at US$32.95


Project Main Features:

  • The most comprehensive VSKYLABS Project up to date.
  • VSKYLABS 'Test-Pilot' Project.
  • Highly defined flight dynamics model of the ICON-A5, built around the powerful, native X-Plane 11 'Experimental Flight Model' environment.
  • 'Designed for VR' - Virtual Reality Ready (of course it is a joy to fly in 2D...).
  • Unique aspects of the ICON-A5 are simulated and are part of the flying experience along with the unique and authentic systems, cockpit panels and display systems:
  • Highly detailed, fully animated aircraft exterior and interior 3D model.
  • Fully functional, authentic A5 Angle of Attack display system.
  • Unique and authentic iconography and embedded into the display systems in the cockpit. 
  • CAP system (Ballistic Parachute system)  modeled along with automatic gear retraction upon activation.
  • Bilge water build-up and purge system are modeled.
  • Removable cockpit windows.
  • The A5's unique custom designed, authentic Landing and Taxi lights.
  • Fully animated wing-fold mechanism, embedded into the flight dynamics model/physics.
  • Fully functional LR G1000 Avionics - Incorporating an innovative solution of a single display with dual PFD/MFD modes!
  • Fully functional G1000 autopilot modes.
  • Custom built PFD Companion and a fully functional Autopilot system included.
  • High quality, animated pilot figure for highly immersive experience in 2D/VR modes.
  • Built-in Avitab Plugin compatibility (AviTab plugin is not included).
  • FMOD Sounds.
  • The project is under constant maintenance and development - updates are free.
  • Skunkcraft Updater is included - all updates are being pushed smoothly without the need to re-download the entire base package (base package will be updated every once in a while to minimize the gap).
  • Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums.



X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB VRAM Recommended
Download Size: 215 MB
Current Version: 3.5 (March 27th, 2023)


Reviewers System:

Windows 10 Professional
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Processor

Palit GeForce RTX™ 3080 GamingPro


Aircraft Review by Michael Hayward 

23rd June 2023

Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews 


(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copying of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) 



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