The Icarus Tandem Canopy
11 years ago we were originally building a rectangular ZP tandem. The original Icarus Tandem sold well and was developed and on the market before any other manufacturer had released a ZP tandem. Eventually Elliptical and Tapered 1/2 ZP tandem canopies came on the scene providing similar performance. In early 1997 Icarus expanded in the US and Europe and additionally, we had secured an arrangement with Stunts Adventure Equipment to provide tandem canopies to go in their Eclipse Tandem rig. It now became viable to focus our energy into designing a new tandem main canopy.
A lot had been learnt from our first canopy, what worked well and what its weaknesses were. We stuck with our proven construction, evaluated some new materials that were available and began shaping, testing, tweaking and re-testing the Icarus Elliptical Tandem.
We have now built in excess of a thousand Icarus Elliptical Tandem canopies. In 1998 it was approved for use by 3 of the 5 FAA tandem exemption holders for use in their equipment in the US (no longer a requirement and not a requirement in most other countries). It was the only canopy to be approved in the US not manufactured and sold in conjunction with the exemption holders' equipment.
The parameters we used to define our ideal tandem canopy where.
- Canopy to last 2000 jumps plus. (Low real cost)
- Comfortable openings.
- Easy landings.
- Light toggle pressure.
The Icarus Elliptical Tandem canopy is a totally Zero-P, Truly Elliptical canopy (leading edge and trailing edge) The only straight cell is the centre cell. The cells vary in width to control cell deformation over the span of the canopy. There are no brake settings and the canopy opens on full drive. It is available in 3 standard control line configurations providing performance and ease of use trade-offs (explained later) and comes with either, Spectra, Vectran or Dacron fully cascaded lines. As with all our canopies it is computer cut and available in any size you wish to order. Standard sizes are 330, 365 and 400sq/ft. The 365 with Vectran line and 6 & 2 control line set up has become the standard and is often available off the shelf.
Control system options
As there are no brake settings this allowed us total flexibility when designing the control system as the unstowed brakes affect the opening very little. There are 3 different options for the brake line setup.
- The first option we call "6 & 2". This setup provides the lightest possible steering with the most powerful flare and can easily be used in this configuration or with all control lines rigged to the primary toggles should you prefer this option and not wish to use separate flare lines.
There are only 2 upper steering lines on each side, going to the outside corners of the canopy. This provides the very light steering and fast turn rate. The toggle pressure is even lighter than a single person parachute making the canopy effortless to fly. On the other hand there are 6 upper flare lines on each side covering most of the back of the canopy, every 1/2 cell has a control line of some sort attached to it except the centre cell providing the most powerful flare available. When the flare lines get picked up the toggle pressure comes back closer to normal tandem toggle pressure.
The down side of this option is that if the flare lines are not picked up there will be virtually no flare available. This option is more for individuals who jump their own equipment.
- The second option we call "2 & 6". This option has 6 upper steering lines and 2 upper flare lines. The steering toggle pressure is heavier than the "6 & 2" but is still very light. The canopy's flare and combined toggle pressure are exactly the same as 6 & 2 but you will still get a reasonable flare if the flare lines are not picked up. This option was developed more for larger DZ operations.
Both the 6 & 2 and 2 & 6 options can be simply rigged to the primary toggles if you wish.
- The third option is the "Single brake line".
For many people who are used to canopies without flare lines, flare lines may seem like a hassle or a step backwards. This setup has a heavier steering pressure than the first two options but is much lighter to flare and simpler to operate. The flare is almost as powerful as the flare lined version. The toggle pressure remains lighter than other modern tandem canopies.
All of these options have light toggle pressure compared to other tandem canopies, we are providing these options both 1) Because we can, and 2) To fit in with other equipment you or your DZ may be using in the interim (before you have replaced all your existing canopies with Icarus Tandems).
The control line configuration can be changed at any time if you feel you would like a different setup for a minimal cost. All versions are built with reinforcing and attachments for every option.
As with your personal canopy, going to total ZP and a fully elliptical planform improves the landings enormously. Landings on the 365 size and above are more gentle than any tandem canopies we've tried. The 6 & 2 option is maneuverable enough to build up a lot of speed for a good surf if you're into that. Nil winds with heavy loads will still have some minimal forward speed as you will get with any canopy, the light toggle pressure makes flaring and controlling the flare very easy.
The openings are soft, consistent and comfortable, they take 500-700 feet. There is a variable lip over the nose as with many Zero-P canopies, there is no flag or hole in the slider, the slider is flat.
The openings on this canopy were exceptional right from the beginning of the development program. We have absolutely no brake settings on the canopy, which has worked out very well with absolutely no down side. The canopy opens centre cell first with the ends collapsed, the remaining cells slowly inflate to a full canopy. Off heading openings do exist but will not dive away so do not become an issue. The openings are very consistent.
During testing we opened the canopy at Tandem Terminal (Drogueless) on many occasions and had nothing but smooth soft openings.
Packing is more difficult than packing an F-111 canopy. As with your own ZP canopy once you have got used to it and the shine has gone from the fabric (about 20-30 jumps) you will not have a problem with packing and it will become easy. (until then you will hate us). We are mostly pro packing or psycho packing, packing it on the side with a roll pack can help get the air out easily and to control the canopy as it goes in the bag. If ordered with packing tabs, the packing tabs are set so they will draw all the lines tight but are still reachable. Rolling or spreading the nose can vary opening speeds and of course... there are no brakes to set.
The construction is very heavy. We have spared no effort or expense and sacrificed some pack volume in order to create a robust 'industrial grade' canopy.
We have 3/4" T-III (400lb) tape reinforcing the entire canopy with tapes running both chordwise and spanwise through the canopies lower surface as well as up the load bearing ribs and through the nose and tail to create a totally interconnected frame or skeleton of tape within the canopy. The canopy fabric is Soarcoat as used in most US built canopies.
There is an option of US made 1500lb Spectra, 1000lb Vectran line, or a combination of 900lband 525lb Dacron. Spectra has been used on parachutes for a long time, it is very light and strong for its size but will shrink and elongate out of shape over time at inconsistent rates putting the canopy out of trim. Vectran is slightly more bulky than Spectra but will hold its trim much better. Dacron will stretch over time but does appear to have better trim qualities than Spectra. The majority of our tandem canopies are going out with Vectran lines as this line tends to have the most advantages depending on your environment.
The canopy comes with bridle reinforcing to suit any system. Risers and toggles are not included as they come with your rig. Risers with a flare toggle setup are required. If ordering in that configuration.
At Icarus we computer cut all our canopies with our CAD/CAM system. We use no patterns or templates and program each order individually into our computer system to customize colors, size and options.
For Tandem operators short canopy life limitations mean a high cost per jump and down time can cost money and is a definite hassle.
Our whole philosophy has been to produce an industrial grade parachute. Other tandem canopy manufacturers recommend or even limit the life of the canopy to be around 600 jumps. We have been targeting a 2000 jump canopy life. To date we have had many Icarus Tandems surpass 2000 jumps that still have life left in them and still perform as new.
This extended canopy life is primarily due to the elimination of F-111 fabric from the canopy and secondly to the bulletproof construction at the sacrifice of a smaller pack volume. The canopy has a complete skeleton of tapes that totally minimizes loading to the fabric. The fabric we are using maintains its porosity very well. We can not guarantee a 2000 jump life from your canopy but performance is maintained and canopy life is now purely determined by fabric degradation caused by UV light and handling wear and tear.
During the heavy drop testing we gradually increased the weight and speed and eventually dropped the canopy at 250MPH with 900lbs under it (400 KPH with 400 KG) the equivalent of 4 people doing double terminal. Measuring equipment on the dummy showed the total load on the canopy during the opening had been almost 10,000 lbs. (4.5 tons). The canopy opened perfectly with no damage.
Line sets need to be replaced periodically like a set of tires on your car, This is relatively low cost and can be done at the factory or can be provided in kit form for a rigger to install.
There are cheaper tandem canopies available. However on a cost per jump basis the Icarus Elliptical Tandem is a far cheaper canopy to operate than any other.
The cost effectiveness of the Icarus Elliptical Tandem is currently unbeatable
The canopy will still be performing as it does from new throughout its life, rather than slowly loosing its performance over the next 500 jumps. For larger DZs your tandem masters won't be avoiding the older rigs any more. (But the packers might be avoiding the new ones at first) You or your tandem masters will find it easy to fly and land, the toggle pressure is refreshingly light and the openings are great.
We suggest the 365sf canopy (although any size is orderable) with the Vectran line.