Icon Focuses On Training


The CEO of Icon Aircraft says he believes his company has moved past the controversy that resulted from its initial stab at a purchase agreement for the Icon A5. Kirk Hawkins told AVweb in an interview at AirVenture 2016 that a revised agreement released in June has been generally well-accepted. The first document, a 43-page litany of legalese that appeared to limit the rights of and impose responsibilities on owners raised eyebrows among customers and the general aviation industry as a whole.

The revised document eased many of those concerns and Hawkins admits the introduction of such a different owner/OEM was mishandled. He said he still believes fundamentally that the relationship between customer and manufacturer is “partnership” that requires respect and responsibility on both sides but the points have been made and the controversy has died down. “I think we’ve moved through the worst of that,” he said.

The company is now fully focused on creating its training program and on getting its production issues ironed out. Hawkins said that some deposit holders cancelled their orders but others filled the void. “Net, net we’re about the same, about 1850 orders,” he said. It will be some time before most of those position holders will see their airplanes as Icon refreshes its approach to tackling that backlog. The plan to build 200 aircraft in 2016 was unrealistic and the company will spend the year getting ready for full production. “You have to build the machine that builds the machine,” he said.

Instead of 200, the company intends to build 20 A5s this year and distribute them among at least three training centers in Florida, Texas and at its home base in Vacaville, California. The facility at Vacaville headquarters is operating and training pilots, including some who are not buyers. “Customers have the priority but we’ll train [others],” he said. The goal, he said, is to get people flying in a simple regime that will fill the pipeline for the future aviation market.

Hawkins said becoming a competent all-weather pilot is a huge undertaking and what most aspiring pilots want to do is simply put 1,000 feet between themselves and the ground. He said most new pilots have no practical purpose for flying. They just want to. “Let’s get you flying,” he said. The company has designed new training materials aimed at creating safe, responsible pilots who fly for fun. Since the airplane is an amphib and will naturally be used away from aviation infrastructure, pilots will have to be resourceful and self-reliant and the training covers that.

Hawkins said his investors have committed to fully funding the program and they are a diverse bunch from North America, Europe and Asia. He said they see huge market potential for a resurgence in recreational flying. “There is massive latent market demand,” he said.