Our original tandem was rectangular and zero porosity; it sold well, having been developed and released onto the market before any other manufacturer had released a ZP tandem. Eventually elliptical and tapered 1/2 ZP tandem canopies arrived on the scene, providing similar performance.
In early 1997 NZ Aerosports expanded into the US and Europe. We had also secured an arrangement with Stunts Adventure Equipment to provide tandem canopies for their Eclipse Tandem rig. It now became viable to focus our energy into designing a new tandem main canopy.
We learned a lot from our first canopy; what worked well and what its weaknesses were. We stuck with our proven construction design, evaluated some newly available materials 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). The Icarus Tandem is the only canopy to be approved in the US, which is not manufactured and sold in conjunction with the exemption holder's equipment.Landings
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.Openings
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.Conclusion
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 losing 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). Tandem masters will find the Icarus Elliptical Tandem easy to fly and land; the toggle pressure is refreshingly light and the openings are great.
We recommend the 365sf canopy with the Vectran line (although any size can be ordered).
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 below). It comes with either Spectra, Vectran or Dacron fully cascaded lines. As with all our canopies, it is computer cut and can be ordered in any size - 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.
Having no brake settings has allowed us total flexibility in designing the control system, as the unstowed brakes have very little effect on the opening. There are 3 different options for the brake line setup.
1) The first option we call 6 & 2: this setup provides the lightest possible steering with the most powerful flare. Alternatively, all control lines can be rigged to the primary toggles if you prefer not 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 suitable for individuals who jump their own equipment.
2) 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 designed for larger DZ operations.
Both the 6 & 2 and 2 & 6 options can be simply rigged to the primary toggles if you wish.
3) The third option is the Single brake line: for people familiar with canopies without them, flare lines may seem like a hassle or a backwards step. 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 provide these options 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 at minimal cost, if you feel you would like a different setup. All versions are built with reinforcing and attachments for every option.
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.
3/4" T-III (400lb) tape reinforces the entire canopy with tapes running both chordwise and spanwise through the canopy's 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 900lb and 525lb Dacron. Spectra has been used on parachutes for a long time; it is very light and strong for its size, but over time it will shrink and elongate out of shape 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 NZ Aerosports, 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 means a high cost per jump; down time costs money and is a definite hassle. Our philosophy has been to produce an industrial grade parachute. Other tandem canopy manufacturers recommend or even limit the life of the canopy to around 600 jumps. We have been targeting a 2000 jump canopy life, and have had many Icarus Tandems surpass 2000 jumps - performing as new and with life still left in them.
This extended canopy life is primarily due to the elimination of F-111 fabric from the canopy, and secondly to bulletproof construction at the sacrifice of a smaller pack volume. The canopy has a complete skeleton of tapes that minimizes loading to the fabric, and the fabric we are using maintains its porosity well. We cannot guarantee a 2000 jump life from your canopy, but performance will be maintained and canopy life will be determined purely by fabric degradation (via UV light) and handling wear and tear.
During heavy drop testing, we gradually increased the weight and speed - eventually dropping the canopy at 250MPH with 900lbs under it (400 KPH with 400 KG). This is the equivalent of 4 people doing double terminal. Measuring equipment on the dummy showed the total load on the canopy during opening was 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 car tyres. 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, but on a cost per jump basis, the Icarus Elliptical Tandem is a far cheaper canopy to operate than any other.
Click on the image to go to our new 3D Canopy Colour Picker, the first of its kind available for skydive canopies. You can use this to design and order your new canopy, or just to play around with ideas of what your next canopy will be like. Enjoy!