Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, November 30, -0001

iCub Love

Classic, frisky, friendly, this Cub clone is so 21st Century

That Engine Thing
Sportair’s choice of the Rotax over a “traditional” aircraft engine was deliberate. “People committed to ‘traditional’ aviation engines simply because that’s how it always was may miss the many advantages of modern engine design. I’m committed to a reliable powerplant, whatever name it has. I want the one that performs the best, has the best fuel economy and gives me the best performance per weight. I trust the Rotax design. It’s proven itself to us for over 15 years, has a 2,000-hour TBO behind it, and is an efficient, true aeronautical engine.”

A Galaxy airframe reserve parachute or seatbelt airbags from Amsafe are being evaluated. “Whatever best increases the safety factor. A lot of bush flying never gets above 1,000 feet. Neither our Sting nor the Sirius are in the NTSB accident database. We want the same thing for the iCub.”

High Points
Impressions from my iBushwhacking: I like the four-point harness. Throttle to idle, turn the ignition key to start, and the Rotax fires right up—no hand-propping this baby. It’s hot: water bottles stowed in the wing root above? Check.

Ease in throttle and we’re rolling on the grass: very little rudder needed. Full power, 5,700 rpm, tail flies right up—great view—and easy on the rudder, boy, easy...The grass falls away smartly with pitch up to a steep Vx at 55 knots. Yowsah, yowsah, yowsah! Little rudder needed during climb. Love the trim wheel: intuitive, smooth and effective. The first few turns reveal firm but moderate-force harmony in pitch and roll. Overall, less rudder required than a J3—that’s the shorter tail coupling. At cruise settings (5,000-5,200 rpm), I’m seeing 87 knots.

We level at 3,000 to pull some turns. The iCub is so tight, solid, smooth. While doing stalls at idle and full power, Bill explained that the leading-edge vortex generators hold laminar flow to the wing at higher angles of attack. Indeed, the mini nose-breaks come with only a gentle burble of warning. Feed in power, and we’re flying, pronto.

During my first approach, Bill chooses to say this is his first flight with anyone except the Zlin instructor. Brave man! Landings with balloon tires on the runway, in addition to costing Bill that $37.83 each in burned rubber, take me some getting used to. Grass makes it much easier to develop some touch.

Any J3 pilot should feel right at home in this cockpit. I love the extra power and performance. Newcomers to tailwheel flight will appreciate the fine job Zlin and Sportair USA have done with construction quality, excellent performance and easy handling. The iCub and Savage models provide, as Bill Canino says, “an airplane for people who want real bush flying, and also allow experienced pilots to scale back to something fun, something that brings emotion back into their flying.” Speaking purely from that emotional point of view, iCub delivers on the fun factor—big time.

Labels: LSAs

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