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Mon, Apr 04, 2016

10 Thoughts/Associated Questions For Icon Aircraft

So... Why The Weird Contract and All the Secrecy/Attempts to Control the Free Flow of Information?

News/Analysis/Opinion by ANN CEO/Editor-In-Chief, Jim Campbell

It's been an interesting couple of days for ANN HQ.

After publishing a much-discussed story last week about issues we questioned in the operations of Icon Aircraft, a familiar pattern emerged. Total silence from Icon, followed by a few nasty accusations and personal attacks from Icon apologists, and several days of near silence from the rest of the so-called aviation press while our story, and its cascading effects, soaked in.

THEN... now that we had plowed this ground and made it safe for other so-called publications to come out of the shadows, several similar stories appeared, some of them appearing to imply that this was all new information, and failing to note the story that FIRST broke this matter to the aviation public.

Sigh... as noted, we’ve seen this process before. Dozens upon dozens of times.

We're getting used to watching our work get parroted (or outright ripped-off)... but are somewhat ‘pleased’ that, this time, it did not take many weeks or months or even years for the rest of the aero-fluff media to get with the program... and surprisingly; the stories that have resulted have been fairly critical... and better than that, reasonably accurate.

That's normal... we research and do some really hard work, take a lot of crap for it... and, ultimately, make it safe for the aero-fluff publications to come out from under their rocks and dip a toe in real journalism... It’s good for them... and, maybe, just maybe, it will catch on.

Like I said…. Just maybe.

Sadly though, many times it hasn't. The so-called Aero-Media virtually ignored the David Riggs story until the death toll became too high to feign ignorance (and after Riggs, himself, became a statistic), They ignored the threats and harassment directed toward us over our coverage of the FlightPrep scandal, they ignored the damage done to so many companies by Cirrus greed and fraud (as well as their full-on attack against the US Constitution and American press freedoms)... and well... you've heard all this before... dozens of times through dozens of critical stories and issues that YOU needed to be told about.

Still; this time, we’re moderately pleased to note they've stuck closely to the issues we brought up... while, here at ANN HQ, the publication of our story has brought dozens of customers, observers and even Icon-affiliated entities out of the wood work to express descriptive concerns about a great number of issues besides the wisdom/validity of their contract. And so... other topics have come to fore that need to be looked at.

And, darn it, there are a lot of them.

And while we're looking at an excessive number of verbal and email reports, we feel that all this data raises legitimate questions that need to be answered. However; Icon Boss Kirk Hawkins, won't talk to us... Icon's promises to get in contact have never materialized and the only folks Icon seems to be talking/responding to are the so-called publications that have been fawning over them the last few years...

And well, that's NOT us.

Mind you; we’d LOVE to be able to write this as a positive, uplifting story… to signal that another company is coming to the market with products that innovate, offer solutions, create value and allow aviation to take one more baby step toward a solid recovery and a more prosperous future. No kidding… we’d love that… but right now, the evidence suggests that a lot of questions need to be answered, and some potentially serious problems need to be solved, before that becomes a remote possibility.

So… all this leaves us with a LOT of questions… questions that Icon is ignoring. BUT… in the spirit of good tenacious journalism, and in an attempt to get the truth out to an Aero-Community that wants nothing more than an Icon success story IF such a story can truly be believed… here are a few question paths (with more to follow) we’d like to proffer in the hopes that those of you with access to Icon might finally get them to speak up, address these (and other) concerns, and fix this mess.

1) The aircraft is a great deal more expensive than originally promoted and costs have gone up dramatically ($250-300K for a reasonably equipped Icon A5, training and other accoutrements) ... is Icon capable of actually producing the A5 at its current price point and do you think the market can sustain such an expensive recreational amphibian ... an aircraft that costs as much as $100K more than other, established Sport Amphibious LSA airframes?

2) What is your financial status/corporate health? After receiving a $60M Venture Capital commitment in 2013, is Icon sufficiently capitalized to be able to complete its near/long term program obligations without additional capital infusions? Observers seem to be concerned about the way that Icon is spending money, with some issues expressed about aggressive spending for "appearance" items and flashy PR... is Icon healthy enough to go into full production or do you need more money? In fact, are you seeking additional funding right now to do so?

3) We're glad to see that you agree that your contact is complicated (via recent documents sent to your customers) ... but worse than that, you seem to be mandating the protection of your own interests far and above those of your customers... Is that the message that you really want to send to the aviation community... that YOU know what's best for them better than they do and as such, that you're setting in place a series of highly restrictive, almost insultingly so, rules that are THE most complex we've ever seen? Is the purchase contract even negotiable?

4) What will be required as part of the mandatory overhauls indicated in your purchase contract? Any cost estimates? Who can conduct them? ...Please provide more concrete details. You’re asking your customers to take quite a bit on faith in the company… even though it doesn’t seem to offer the same to them. The lack of significant operating cost/detail in your contracts is the source of much of the distrust that has been expressed to us by your customers and potential buyers. As to the mandatory installation and operation of an Icon-owned/controlled data recorder… what protections to do you offer to your customers/operators that the data you collect will be used ethically, responsibly and legally… and what protections do you offer to your clientèle that you won’t use this info against THEM?

5) What about insurance? Who can insure the A5? What restrictions are in place? Do you have some sample cost estimates available for your customers based on various backgrounds and experience levels? How will that program be run?

6) What is the current status of the Icon A5 production design? Is it truly production ready? We understand that significant updates and mods were being made up til recent weeks/months and that the pseudo-production prototype(s) were requiring some serious attention and upgrades.

7) What about flight training... please summarize the program(s) that will be available for new and transitioning pilots? Please describe the curricula, the details as to how the program will be run and how the program is being validated. How much flight time is involved, how many days will be required for the various factory programs? What are the estimated costs? By the way’ can an Icon A5 be used and operated as part of a Flying Club or similar operations? If so, how… and with what limitations? Some of the contract details suggest that this would be ‘difficult.’

8) Can you really produce this thing right now? What is the REAL production schedule? Are the production lines operational? What is the state of their readiness? Have the primary materials and shipset orders been made to undertake initial serial production? Is all production tooling in place? How is the process being conducted and supervised?

9) Why the subterfuge/hype/misdirection and Bravo Sierra? For instance; why have you accused people of sending info and speaking to ANN (when we gave you NO information, to that effect, at all) about a number of issues of growing concern among the aviation community? Were your purchase agreements supposed to be secret? Is there something wrong with members of the aviation community comparing notes and discussing items of importance with the aviation media and other members of the aviation community? Doesn't this behavior speak to some institutional paranoia at Icon? You've worked hard to build up great interest and expectations... why are you surprised that people interested in your company and products want to discuss them, share thoughts, seek counsel and compare their opinions and concerns with others? Is that not a normal process... and if so, why is Icon accusing people of talking to the media like they've done something wrong?

10) We have had great concerns over the ethical appearance/conduct of the company. You claim that you started deliveries last year.... consisting of one airplane that was displayed for PR purposes and then put back on a truck to the factory. It has yet to return. That’s a delivery? You've reportedly attempted to exert control over editorial works from those you've carefully screened and allowed to fly in the airplane. You’ve posted pithy self-congratulatory messages expressing gratitude for the ‘nomination’ for the Collier Award… without disclosing that you nominated yourself. The aggressive Icon hype and PR machine has been pushing an almost unrealistic narrative that's big on non-substantiated fluff/hype and short on details, hard info, and credibility... creating a growing sense of unease and distrust within the aviation community. Are you aware that this is happening and can you describe why you've resisted becoming a more transparent and responsive company? We all want you to succeed… but your behavior recalls the worst kinds of issues that arose with the Bede scandal, the Eclipse failure, the Revolution Helicopter mess…and so many others. We flyers want to believe in the best and brightest of futures for the Aero-Verse… but we’re tired of getting our hearts broken, time and time again, when our greatest dreams turn into our worst nightmares.
Please let us know when and how answers to these and other important questions may be obtained.

A Final Note From ANN to Icon

Despite requests (and a promise Kirk Hawkins made long ago), we have not had a chance to fly/examine the airplane. If the airplane flies well, that crosses one major concern off the list and allows us to proceed with our inquiries in an altogether different direction (and mollifies a major area of concern).

With Lakeland coming up tomorrow, we’d like to suggest that we have an opportunity to test fly the airplane over the next week, or at an otherwise agreeable time in the near future. The flight test would be dedicated to a “First Look” at basic performance, stability and control criteria, and an examination of the aircraft’s flight envelope. The test would be carefully briefed prior to flight with your designated pilot, observers would be welcome to all our processes, and we would like to record (videographically) the entire event, as well, for background editorial coverage and B-roll usage. Portable HD Cameras would be installed in the airplane to record requisite video and audio data so that any results and/or observations would be verifiable and documented. Within a few days after the end of Lakeland (as soon as we catch our breath—grin), copies of our documentation would be available, publicly for all to see, unedited, via Google site or similar cloud-based platform. It would be a completely transparent event… and we would file a brief synopsis of the flight within 24 hours, followed, by a more detailed report within 10 days.

That is as reasonable and transparent as we know how to do this and pretty close to how we do it otherwise… and will carefully mimic what we’ve done all along… describe the capabilities, performance and character of a test aircraft via careful examination of its abilities while in flight. I can’t think of anything else we can do to make this as transparent as possible… and so we will await a change of heart and will make whatever schedule changes we must to make this happen.

You may reach me, 24/7, at 863-299-8680 or via jim@aero-news.net.

I look forward to flying the aircraft…

FMI: jim@aero-news.net, www.iconaircraft.com

 


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