Icon Gets Tested

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Sooner or later, Icon was going to get tested and the test came this week, probably sooner than any of us might have expected. The fatal crash of an Icon A5 owned by retired baseball star Roy Halladay dwelled above the fold on some newscasts and websites. It’s a big deal in the sports world because of Halladay’s exceptional pitching career. It’s a big deal in aviation because yet another celebrity has died in the crash of a GA airplane.

And it’s an even bigger deal for Icon, both because it’s just ramping up production to deliver the much-buzzed-about A5 and because, as is its wont, it promoted Halladay’s purchase with a slick, expensively produced marketing video. I’ve never been impressed with celebrities promoting or being involved in aviation, but the attraction persists. 

Ignoring for the moment the cause of the Halladay crash—we don’t have enough detail yet—I think the tests facing Icon are multifold. First, how will it respond to the immediate bad press? Will it look inward and examine its training program for potential oversights? Just as the company announced large price increases on the A5 (now $389,000 fully loaded), will sales be affected? The really interesting test will be how Icon’s iron-clad sales agreement that’s supposed to protect it against litigation holds up against a legal challenge. And I’m betting it will be challenged, just as Cirrus was after the Corey Lidle crash in New York in 2006.

Recalling how Icon responded to the furor over the sales contract two years ago, I don’t expect a circle-the-wagons mentality. The company has too much at stake. I’ll be surprised if they don’t figure out a way to thread the PR thicket. The A5s are equipped with cameras and data recorders so it won’t be long before the cause of the crash is known. The first fatal crash of an A5 occurred only last May, and by August, the NTSB determined the cause to be pilot error. So give it a few weeks.

I encounter a lot of negativity about Icon in the “established” aviation community. Much of this relates to Icon being a self-declared change agent intent on “democratizing” aviation. To be fair, Icon has been long on promotion and short on delivery. It seems to be getting there, albeit slowly. As I’ve said before, I don’t share the negativity because I like the concept of drawing new participants into aviation through non-traditional channels, specifically high-dollar motorsports and extreme sports players.

I’m not skeptical of the business thrust, but I’m also mindful of the fact that human factors complicate it. Is it realistic to train people from zero time, give them low-altitude hazard awareness doctrine and turn them loose? Is the Halladay crash a leading indicator that this is iffy, or just an unfortunate one-off? No one knows.

The closest paradigm I can imagine is a look at the Searey, lately an LSA amphibian but a kit built before that. I can see no reason to believe the A5 shouldn’t have a similar accident pattern as the Searey because they are similar aircraft. The A5 has the benefit of a stall-resistant design.

I swept 17 years' worth of Searey accidents and found 46, only five of which were fatal. That’s about 11 percent, which is well below the GA average of about 21 percent. Based on these numbers, my impression is that the Searey is quite crashworthy and I have no reason to believe the A5 would be any less so.

Common patterns? You can guess. Pilots land in the water with the gear down. The airplanes generally don’t flip and the occupants are rarely injured. But they always get wet because the airplanes sink as result of structural damage. Next up, pilots submarine the things by landing in seaways the airplanes can’t handle. Same results: a swim to shore or a boat ride. The rest of the accidents are a mixed bag of hitting things in the water, loss of control or engine failures.

What may separate the Searey accidents from the A5 future accident pattern is low-flying incidents, or lack thereof. I only found a handful of Searey accidents in which low flying was implicated, and one of those was a wire strike on landing, another a tree strike on takeoff. Those sorta don’t count, right? So if Icon really encourages low flying by giving low-time pilots enough training to think they understand it, will that result in a different accident pattern? Dunno. Check back in five years.

For the time being, Icon’s two fatal crashes are too few to support any judgments. Recall that Cirrus had a similar rocky start and although it took the company more than a decade to figure out training, it eventually did and now Cirrus has a remarkably good safety record. Icon may get there, too. We just have to give them the chance to prove it.

Almost forgot. For 837 days, I have not been allowed to fly an Icon A5. 

Comments (48)

I honestly do think this will doom Icon. They've been pushing the plane as a flying jet-ski (with about as much required training) and that's how people see it. No matter what their mandatory training says, if the marketing department says it's a jet-ski, people will use it like a jet-ski.

We all know what the NTSB means when it talks about "maneuvering flight" in an accident report. This is a plane that is built, marketed, and sold for the sole purpose of maneuvering flight.

It's accident record will bear that out, I have no doubt in my mind.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | November 8, 2017 12:38 PM    Report this comment

And, horrible as it is to watch, a video just went public showing the plane flying before the crash.

No surprise, low altitude maneuvering over the water.

Icon should be ashamed of themselves for the way they've pushed their plane. As far as I'm concerned, they bear the lion's share of the responsibility, morally, and possibly even legally, for this accident.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | November 8, 2017 1:50 PM    Report this comment

It seems to me the plane itself is fine (very fine if the price is any indication).

The last bit about Cirrus begs the question, what is a good safety record, and how do you measure it?

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 8, 2017 4:13 PM    Report this comment

With low-altitude manuevering flight being one of, if not the leading cause(s) of GA accidents, I can't imagine how any CEO could allow their aircraft to be marketed to the general public in such a way. It literally makes me sick in the pit of my stomach.

Posted by: A Richie | November 8, 2017 4:25 PM    Report this comment

Fly close to the Sun, there is going to be singed hair!
This contraption is destigned for stupid!
Early on I said it was a jetski on steroids.
After all, why own one of these unless you wanted to buzz some clown on the lake.
Look at ICON's marketing... buzzing the water.... like quads spinning the tires on a trail in the hills.
Encouraging operating equipment like idiots.
Don't wait, litigate!
It's tough not feeling sorry for the venture capital clowns that fell for this pitch!
What's Vacaville going to do with all the excess wharehouse space?
$350Plus per copy... sure

Posted by: Mark L. Fraser | November 8, 2017 4:56 PM    Report this comment

Fly close to the Sun, there is going to be singed hair!
This contraption is destigned for stupid!
Early on I said it was a jetski on steroids.
After all, why own one of these unless you wanted to buzz some clown on the lake.
Look at ICON's marketing... buzzing the water.... like quads spinning the tires on a trail in the hills.
Encouraging operating equipment like idiots.
Don't wait, litigate!
It's tough not feeling sorry for the venture capital clowns that fell for this pitch!
What's Vacaville going to do with all the excess wharehouse space?
$350Plus per copy... sure

Posted by: Mark L. Fraser | November 8, 2017 4:57 PM    Report this comment

Wait a minute. Halladay was not a brand new pilot trained only by Icon. Regardless of the marketing, Halladay clearly went against everything he's learned in his previous instruction and experience about the dangers of low altitude maneuvering. He's an adult. He's a pilot with 800 hrs TT. Yes, Icon is guilty of marketing to thrillseekers with little to no aviation experience, but I wouldn't put Halladay in that group. Also true of the other fatal Icon accident.
I do think that Icon will struggle to stay afloat after this very public accident, but I'm certain they'll politely say that the plane was not defective (assuming the data recorder shows that), and that the accident was likely due to pilot error. I don't think it's reasonable to blame an accident like this on product marketing.

Posted by: BRUCE POULTON | November 8, 2017 5:17 PM    Report this comment

It's hard for me to see how an accident that can clearly be shown to be the result of pilot hot-dogging (and yes, I'm making that assumption) is going to have any significant negative effect.

People get hurt or killed on dirt bikes, ATVs and even jet-skis all the time. Like the Icon, these toys are marketed specifically as fun machines to a certain demographic, and when that demographic reads about the jet-ski rider who decapitated himself while zooming under a pier at 50 mph it doesn't decrease their desire to own one in the slightest.

Posted by: John Wilson | November 8, 2017 5:44 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, but I'm concerned when nobody seems worried about releasing newbys into the airspace I've been paying sevice to since 1980! Not sold on this Light Sport Concept.
Seems like there is a bunch of favor to them and screw the certified crew!
Mark 237

Posted by: Mark L. Fraser | November 8, 2017 5:48 PM    Report this comment

I think the onerous Icon sales contract was a premonition as Icon neared delivery; the stark revelation that they were building an amphibious aircraft to be flown by amateurs for buzzing lakes and landing in unpredictable conditions. Of course there would be serious and deadly crashes above the normal rate.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 8, 2017 6:02 PM    Report this comment

The fact that Halladay was an experienced pilot illustrates the seductive nature of the A5. It is specifically built as a performance machine with wings and marketed to those who seek an adrenaline rush in all endeavors. Perhaps Icon has succeeded too well in their quest for the ultimate fun water play toy.

Whether they prevail in court is probably less important than the verdict in the court of public opinion. Dangerous as they are, people continue to buy dirt bikes because they are cheap, thus available to a wide audience. The potential buyers that can afford an A5 are far fewer and if they perceive it as a killer, the market will kill the plane regardless.

Posted by: John McNamee | November 8, 2017 6:06 PM    Report this comment

A pilot with 800TT shoulda known better than do what I saw in the TMZ video. Icon's marketing videos clearly show low altitude maneuvering and -- as Joshua L says -- they're gonna bear some responsibility for this tragedy. Between the two accidents, the onerous 'contract' and the price increases ... I think the best thing Icon can do is give as much of the deposit $$ back and close their doors. GA is in tough enough shape as it is ... we don't this kind of notoriety ! A guy with Halladay's money could have bought an L39 and been flying a real fighter for what he paid for this toy and likely still been alive ??

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 8, 2017 7:30 PM    Report this comment

I'm sure that the last thing Icon wanted was another accident or the ensuing diffusion of inaccurate media accident reports. Bad enough is being made worse.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 8, 2017 7:41 PM    Report this comment

I did not realize that he was an 800 hour pilot. That changes my feelings on this particular accident greatly. Sounds like the pilot was displaying a fair bit of invulnerability. Other witness statements say he'd been doing low altitude maneuvering all week, including buzzing boats.

That being said, I still feel pretty strongly that Icon's marketing of this plane is irresponsible to the point that they may be civilly liable for lawsuits. They pitch the plane as being made for this stuff. Normally I'm pretty negative on aviation liability, but Icon to me has gone too far.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | November 8, 2017 8:17 PM    Report this comment

Seriously, many of you blame Icon for this fatal crash. I don't because there was a PIC and he decided how and where he would operate the aircraft. I fly with a lot of pilots with less than 500TT and there is a common thematic I have seen from how they operate the aircraft they fly. Here's question for you, "why do we follow the yellow lines on taxi ways?"

ADM is on the pilot not the aircraft.

Posted by: Joseph F. Marszal | November 9, 2017 8:06 AM    Report this comment

My prediction is that Icon will become the new Doctor Killer.

Given the US$389K price tag only people with very large wallets will be able to buy an A5. These people often have very large egos which lead them to extrapolate their financial success to areas where they have little competency. Cases in point are the Bonanza and the Cirrus.

Seareys are similarly configured aircraft but their accident history is not entirely relevant to the A5. This is because Seareys appeal to a completely different type of buyer and, importantly, they are not marketed expressly to deliver rushes to low time high income Type A powersports adrenalin junkies.

Icon positions the A5 as the platform for the wealthy unwashed to make good their Walter Mitty dreams as fighter pilots at extremely low altitudes. (Or to put wings on their seadoos.)

Look at Icon's web site and their slick videos. Icon is clearly advocating nap-of-the-earth flying with aggressive maneuvering in an amphibious aircraft in unstructured environments.

Icon's primary target market is non-pilots so all this by people with fresh Sport Pilot certificates! Or by pilots with a bunch of hours at four and five digit altitudes going airport to airport. These high time high altitude pilots are still low time pilots at two and three digit altitudes.

Safe flight at very low altitudes requires a depth of knowledge and experience Icon's target market does not have and is unlikely to acquire. Flight at sub hundred foot altitudes also requires a cool head and self discipline.

Icon's new "Low Altitude Flying Guidelines" are woefully inadequate. They don't even scratch the surface. Just another Icon marketing coverup! Perhaps "low and slow" should be rephrased as "low and slow and level"...

Kirk Hawkins when announcing the latest price increase to US$389,000 admitted Icon never had any idea how much it would cost to manufacture the A5. How many crashes will it take for them to learn this lesson?

Posted by: Bryan Quickmire | November 9, 2017 8:56 AM    Report this comment

After aviation journalist Christine Negroni stated that Icon's president Hawkins "had a startling lack of appreciation for the way accidents happen", he said,

"We have a startling appreciation for just how error-prone humans are, which is why we have gone to great lengths to foil bad pilots, as far as we possibly can."

IMO, after three fatalities, the weeding out process is questionable. Maybe the program's "safety culture" needs to enrich the pucker factor just a bit.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 9, 2017 10:01 AM    Report this comment

As a full time flight instructor I like to research accidents to help me learn from other pilot's good or even painful experience. Gen. Patton was quoted as saying "I don't like to pay for the same real estate twice." Therefore, I guard against my arrogance.
So I read, evaluate and practice prudence. While searching, I found an article by our friend Jason Baker of Seaplane magazine. It is a good article addressing media hype and sensationalism.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 9, 2017 12:48 PM    Report this comment

"It isn't the gun, it's the gun owner" is the best analogy for me that describes the 2 fatal incidents involving the Icon A5.
Paul, who has prevented you from flying the Icon A5 for the last 837 days and why?

Posted by: W E Hence | November 9, 2017 12:58 PM    Report this comment

Icon and all the other LSA manufacturers should be praised. They've shown regulators worldwide that prescriptive regulations, i.e. Part 23, STC's, TSO's, PMA's, etc. are not required to make quality aircraft that are at least as safe, if not safer than their 'certifed' brethren*. That EASA / FAA / CASA and others have adopted consensus based standards as the basis of their regulatory reform show's the out-sized influence LSA has on aviation. The approach is spreading to Parts 25, 27 & 29.

New airplanes, new companies, new designs always solicit Luddite responses from the status quo. I recall when Cirrus launched their original SR20 in 1999, one aviation journalist opined that the first STC would be to remove the parachute to get greater useful load. He was even more scathing when they eliminated the standard 6-pack less than 3 years later. Cirrus is a great aircraft. OK, it took them a while to get the training fully dialed in. Icon no doubt will have a similar learning curve.

Flying low takes skill and judgement that's not covered in pilot training. The echo chamber is calling out Icon for their low level promotional videos. Should there also be a clarion call for low level flight training. After all, we do fly close to the ground at least twice during every flight.

Icon brings GA at least 2 new paradigms; AoA & a spin proof wing. Their simple and very ergonomic cockpit helps non-aviators realize they don't need to be super-human to be pilots.

GA needs Icon or another similar company to succeed. Icon may not be perfect, but who is? I applaud them for their vision and persistence. We need more of that.

* The fatality rate is lower in LSA's even though the incident rate is similar to certified aircraft. Compared to 2-seat certified aircraft, LSA's are much safer.

Posted by: Serena Ryan | November 9, 2017 3:44 PM    Report this comment

Icon's marketing doesn't seem materially different to me than the marketing for Aircam, or Cubcrafters, or Just Aircraft, or any of the other STOL aircraft designed for fun. If that's worth a lawsuit, we might as well just give up on the whole concepts of personal responsibility and adulthood. They are starting to seem dated anyhow.

Posted by: Gareth Allen | November 9, 2017 4:49 PM    Report this comment

Sure looks like same marketing strategy. All three companies advocate low level "adventure" flights. A sight seeing Aircam, off the coast of Honduras, slightly overloaded, lost an engine, the wing dipped into the water and suddenly ended the flight. All aboard survived. The Supercub accident happened in 2012 piloted by an ATP with several thousand hours. According to witnesses, the ATP killed himself while "practicing" departure stall at 200ft agl in the pattern. R.I.P.
On the Icons. Two crashes, three fatalities, pilot error confirmed on one. The other sure looks like it. #1 Pilot error, #2 pilot error, #3 pilot error, #4? Serena is correct.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 9, 2017 6:07 PM    Report this comment

"Icon's marketing doesn't seem materially different to me than the marketing for Aircam, or Cubcrafters, or Just Aircraft"

I see it as fundamentally different. Icon's stated intent was to draw buyers from non-traditional sources and to introduce people to aviation who weren't already pilots. None of the other companies are doing that specifically. This implies attracting high net-worth individuals or at least higher worth than a modest kit builder would likely be. Halladay was an example. Icon says this is a new idea and I think they're right.

Second, Icon is fully invested in complete training to the extent of inventing their own training system, which owners must complete as a condition of sale. Far as I know, no one else is doing this to this extent. They are all in. The sales contract exerts a lot of control and influence.

As for what's a "good" safety record, Cirrus' recent experience defines it. Its fatal rate is under 1.0 and for the last three years, has been 0.82. As recently as 2012, it was 1.4. That's above the GA average of 1.1 or so. That's impressive progress. Can Icon match it? Perhaps. If Cirrus did, why can't others? Lack of a BRS may or may not be determinative.

Icon refused me a demo flight because the company was annoyed at critical comments I had published. They wanted me to withdraw these and apologize before they would ok a flight. I declined.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 9, 2017 7:29 PM    Report this comment

Perhaps you can't fix reckless or distracted flying.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 9, 2017 8:27 PM    Report this comment

An unfortunate accident for sure. Condolences to the family and fans.

There is a trend in aviation, exhibited both by Icon and Cirrus to be a bit protective of their interests in the social media and customer experience. After all, they are the entity that gets to spend huge sums in court to defend their company and keep their employees, well, employed.

I happen to believe the community of Cirrus pilots and COPA did as much to improve the statistics of the Cirrus accident record as the company did. Fortunately, when it mattered, the Cirrus management set aside any differences and worked with the owner's group. The result has been good so far.

I write this to encourage Icon to work hard with the customer base and empower them to create a good culture that recognizes risky behaviors and operations. I know that those of us in the Cirrus training community would be happy to assist in any way to create a good outcome for all pilots.

Posted by: Trip Taylor | November 9, 2017 8:32 PM    Report this comment

My condolences to Mr. Halladay's family. It is truly a tragic loss.

It will probably be a cold in hell when you get to fly the Icon. Possibly will need skis. Thanks for staying true to the cause and paying the consequences. Actually Icon has missed an opportunity to get an honest opinion from a famous aviation curmudgeon.

I do cringe when I see the Icon videos. Sure it is like all other high octane high thrill sports machines, but in aviation, it is much easier to kill yourself. Advertising does two things in that it sells the product and it convinces people how to use the product. So, if the cause is not found to be a mechanical failure, then the blame is on the PIC. However, the marketing department is certainly a contributing factor. Let's not jump to conclusions until all the facts are in and the experts have poured over the data.

Over the years I have scraped up all sorts of painful and or fatal accidents that were the result of operators/drivers/riders/pilots believing that their machine has some magical power to avoid the laws of physics. Unfortunately, those laws persist and those who violate them can pay the ultimate price. The fact that I am sitting here writing is testament that sometimes, luck helps. That said, luck can never be part of a safety plan. Low level maneuvering increases the probability that something very hard and unforgiving will come up and smite thee.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | November 9, 2017 11:00 PM    Report this comment

If Icon has this magic AoA system and stall proof wing, in house comprehensive training program completion as a prerequisite to purchase (rivaling COPA), and high net worth pilots (read successful) are their new target audience, how the heck did this accident happen? It sure as heck wasn't related to 6G+ GLOC or a wing falling off. I'm sure the lawyers for the plaintiff will determine it must be related to the 912iS or an instrument that shoulda been somewhere else. THAT is the problem here. This guy brags that flying low and fast over the water makes him feel like a "fighter pilot," goes out and kills himself and now we're speculating that the statistics of LSA's are wonderful. THIS GUY HARMED GA, folks! Period. Meanwhile, at NTSB HQ ... lots of folks will remain employed analyzing the data recorders and writing reams of reports.

Raf ... I looked at your link and the embedded video of the NTSB briefing. Geezus ... the investigation will take one to two years !! Give me a break, NTSB. The airplane had two onboard data recorders. No wonder we have a $20T debt in this Country and GA is in such dire straits.

I feel very sorry for his wife (who evidentally had a premonition) and children ... but I'm PO'ed at the harm he's brought to GA and/or LSA.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 9, 2017 11:02 PM    Report this comment

Larry, I agree with you. It looks like regardless of the pilot's total flight time or training, "Low altitude guidelines" may not be able to fix reckless or distracted flying. I've lost several experienced friends due to pilot error. One fatality by wreckless flying and three fatalities by distractions.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 10, 2017 12:02 AM    Report this comment

Icon is dead meat.
Save the baby turtles.

Posted by: Thomas Cooke | November 10, 2017 7:28 AM    Report this comment

After seeing the video, it reminded me of the John Denver crash.
It does not matter who you are (or think you are) if you intentionally put your plane down really low and put fun over the physics of flying, you can kill yourself in a perfectly good aircraft.

I agree with Larry, such a displays of dumbassery hurts manufacturers, sales people, mechanics, suppliers as well as the the rest of us who will suffer the inevitable wave of new restrictions.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 10, 2017 7:59 AM    Report this comment

Mark ... that's my point. Just today I'm reading about a new potential AD against PA28 wing spars because only two -- TWO -- airplanes were discovered to have exfoliation corrosion on the spar. And because of the possible AD, the FAA now wants 11,000 + airplane owners to potentially have to have a sheet metal mod of the wing to install an inspection port ... at the cost of ~$1K total. The Colgan rule was an over reaction to the totality of that accident, as well.

Transposed to this situation ...as a result of just one crash, I'm sure now there'll be new FAR's written to keep stupid pilots from killing themselves and the price will be borne by all of us.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 10, 2017 8:27 AM    Report this comment

Just a thought, but a possible placard for the A5 panel.

"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect."

Posted by: April Talmadge | November 10, 2017 9:43 AM    Report this comment

It's perhaps too early to know for sure, but all early evidence points to Halladay maneuvering low and fast. It brings to mind a passage from Wolfgang Langewiesche's "Stick and Rudder" whereby he describes that many men, upon first learning to fly, become incredibly intoxicated by the feeling and start pulling all manner of stunts in their aircraft, thus coming to an early demise. Both the Halladay and Karkow crashes are tragic but seem to point to poor pilot judgment, not inherent design flaws with Icon A5. I hope that the facts are soon established and that Icon will be able to continue forward. The human spirit is powerful and soaring, but humans are fallible creatures. RIP Halladay, Karkow and Sever.

Posted by: Ben Wittman | November 10, 2017 5:05 PM    Report this comment

One of the Chinese companies that made and sold model planes in the U.S. had a very good selling model of the Icon A5. I often wondered why they pulled it from the market when they continued selling many other popular models. I now suspect it had a lot of crashes probably due to its flight configuration. There is no other viable reason available as it was not a too expensive model.
I think that the small entry platform acts as a wing structure affecting air forces which at low elevations puts the plane in a dangerous situation causing it to crash.
The wind tunnel does not give an accurate result if the plane is not made to move in a turn that would simulate actual flight and should not be relied upon to come to a decision of the causes of the crash. Miles Garnett

Posted by: Miles Garnett | November 11, 2017 9:55 PM    Report this comment

"Icon refused me a demo flight because the company was annoyed at critical comments I had published. They wanted me to withdraw these and apologize before they would ok a flight. I declined."

Paul, does not Icon's annoyance to your comments, their qualification for withdrawal of your comments including an apology prior to allowing you a demo flight speak volumes of the company hence its product. I've never seen such arrogance from someone in their shoes. Icon has a history of arrogance that is mind boggling. I wouldn't buy a box of rocks from these people. They'd probably require the same contract for the box of rocks that they require for their plane. No way no how. How they are even in operation today is stunning.

Posted by: Thomas Cooke | November 12, 2017 5:01 AM    Report this comment

I would not be surprised if China "saves" Icon.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 12, 2017 5:39 AM    Report this comment

Off-hours television in minor markets is occupied by a variey of direct-sales infomercials. Ginsu knives spring to mind. I've seen no Ginsu ads in which a selling point was video of an expert knife-hurler tossing cutlery into a board, with a scantilly-clad "participant" in the frame.

Icon deliberately markets its product as a means to adventure. Improper use of an A5 or a Ginsu can lead to bloodshed. At least Ginsu eschews encouragement of improper use.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | November 12, 2017 6:58 AM    Report this comment

"Paul, does not Icon's annoyance to your comments, their qualification for withdrawal of your comments including an apology prior to allowing you a demo flight speak volumes of the company hence its product."

Actually, I never thought so. I think, at the time, the company was thin skinned about any kind of criticism. They threw us out of their display at AirVenture when we tried to film a comparison piece with a French amphib called the Akoya. They didn't want to be compared with anything and that characterized their marketing and promotion.

Following the harsh reaction to their initial sales contract, I think the company's management has matured somewhat. People I know and respect have flown the airplane and pronounced it well executed and living up to the claims. I have no reason to doubt that and I'm not sure I have any special skills to reveal flaws in the airplane that others missed or declined to report. Personally, I separate the thin-skinned reaction from the product itself.

I continue to believe the idea Icon is pursuing is sound and a refreshing approach compared to what others have done. I wish them every success because selling more airplanes and getting more people into aviation is a win-win. I reject the notion that early accidents will harm the industry. Cirrus had a poor early safety record and this did no global damage to general aviation. Neither will Icon accidents if the pattern doesn't persist and they respond proactively, which I think they will.

My main doubt about the program is potential profitability and ROI. The A5 is the most expensively developed LSA out there and now that they've raised the price, can they sell enough fast enough to keep the cash burn and revenue lines from crossing? I see this as a very difficult challenge unrelated to whether the airplane is as good as everyone says.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 12, 2017 7:46 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I don't believe you can separate the thinned skin from the product no more than you can separate performance from character or the chute from Cirrus. It all becomes part of the whole product. In my view this is inescapable. I dislike Cirrus not because of the chute, I don't like it because of the design philosophy that created the chute is carried through the entire Cirrus product. I see Icon in the same light.

Posted by: Thomas Cooke | November 12, 2017 8:32 AM    Report this comment

In the end, it's always about reaching profitability... which results from marketability and the "big" picture, not one crash. Tom is right. This Company has been at it for 10 years, made promises it couldn't keep, raised the price dramatically, requires an onerous contract, acts 'thin skinned' to aviation journalists ... and so on. This says much about the principals of Icon. Seems to me that the FlyCatcher people did the same thing ... and look where they are today. Anyone who owns one owns an orphan. To an even greater extent ... that's going to happen with Icon, too. I think they're trying to lure heavy hitters who don't know much about aviation to part with their $$$ in. That's why they have that slick black kiosk.

I, too, wish Icon could have made a go of it but ... given the above and now, this crash, the odds are stacked against them to the point where it's time for them to start asking themselves the "hard" questions. I fail to see what the design of this airplane offers that I can't get by going someplace else and spending a lot less money. We've all moaned about the high price of LSA's holding that potential market back ... now multiply by two+ and THEY think they're gonna be a success. I don't think so, Vern. This crash did their Company irreparable harm.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 12, 2017 10:00 AM    Report this comment


The comparison to Cirrus is apt regarding the early accident rate and corrections, but there is a fundamental difference that I suspect Icon cannot overcome.

Cirrus's issue was marketing the plane as a serious cross-country traveling machine. There is nothing *inherently* dangerous about that sort of flying, but it requires more mature risk assessment. Once the "pull-the-chute" mentality made it through the training regiment when pilots got themselves in over their heads, the accident picture improved dramatically.

Icon on the other hand markets their plane for low altitude "maneuvering" flight. That sort of flying *is* inherently dangerous, not to mention flying an amphib in general, and the general underpowered nature of the aircraft because of our insipid, anti-safety LSA rules. I'm not sure that they can train their pilots out of the danger here, because doing so would completely negate the reason they bought the plane.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | November 12, 2017 11:21 AM    Report this comment

Actually, cross country flight is also inherently dangerous, at least for the untrained and inexperienced. The 500 or 1000-mile trip inevitably encounters weather and, as the early Cirrus accident rate showed, higher probability than average for fatal accidents. Once Cirrus got training in hand, this declined dramatically.

For those who know what they're doing, nap-of-the-earth is still inherently risky, but not much more so than cross country in weather flying if you compare the numbers. That's why I think the Searey record is informative. Every time I've demo'd an amphib, we've done low flying around the lakes and rivers. Pretty sure Searey's are widely flown this way. As I noted, they may have a high incident rate, but they have a low fatal rate, too. Half the GA average on incidence.

Until recently, 43 percent of Cirrus accidents were fatal. Now it's much lower. If you believe this can't be addressed by training and risk mitigation, than you'd probably believe Icon is doomed to a horrible accident pattern. If you believe it can be addressed, it will be something better than horrible and perhaps quite good. I'm pulling for the latter because I want them to succeed and I'm exhausted with the doom and gloom the participants of GA so often cast on new ideas.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 12, 2017 1:11 PM    Report this comment

One difference you may not have considered between the Icon and the SeaRey is the slider canopy on the SeaRey. I'd bet you anything it's easier to open underwater than the Icon's canopy.

Posted by: lindsay petre | November 12, 2017 4:31 PM    Report this comment

"I'm exhausted with the doom and gloom the participants of GA so often cast on new ideas." New ideas are great, except for the new ideas that are both stupid and unsafe, like selling high-speed, low-altitude flying to narcissistic sports jocks. What could possibly go wrong? On the other hand, if people want to go out and kill themselves doing something that their egos tell them is "cool", that really ought to be their prerogative and no one else's. Do we complain about it because our insurance rates might go up, or because we might end up having to suffer more of the FAA? What is it?

Posted by: Ken Keen | November 12, 2017 5:52 PM    Report this comment

From Icon's website: "Forget the Lamborghini. The Icon A5 is the greatest rich-guy toy in the world." Paul, your approval is not needed. Ouch!!!

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 12, 2017 6:17 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I agree with your sentiment:

"I'm pulling for the latter because I want them to succeed and I'm exhausted with the doom and gloom the participants of GA so often cast on new ideas."

Collectively, we (the small airplane GA crowd), are pretty negative about pretty much every innovation. I'd like to see more folks entering the hobby -- their purchases would add demand and possibly drive down unit prices. The low manufacturing numbers are keeping new airframe prices very high.

Posted by: DON HUDDLER | November 12, 2017 6:33 PM    Report this comment

Well ... in a few more years we're all gonna know who was right ... won't we.

If $150K LSA's ain't selling because the overall performance doesn't match the cost of entry ... how the heck is an almost $400K LSA gonna do it? Are there THAT many rich folks around? Methinks it's time for a reality check.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 12, 2017 6:34 PM    Report this comment

In the published video of the flight, would Mr. Halladay have done the same low manuevering flying in, say, a Cherokee 140? What causes an 800+ hour pilot to fly the way he did in the video?

Posted by: A Richie | November 12, 2017 9:51 PM    Report this comment

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