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Wed, Nov 01, 2017

Icon Insanity Continues… Top Price for A5 Skyrockets To $389k… For Now

Errant Company Continues to Alienate Industry with Arrogant Behavior

News/Analysis/Opinion by J. R. Campbell, CEO/Editor-In-Chief

It’s hard to believe that a concept that was once heralded as a sport aviation watershed has become such a disappointing thorn in the side of the aviation world.

Icon Aircraft, which burst on the scene with the promise of a cute little SportPlane with delightful amphibious capabilities, for less than $140K, has morphed into a litany of broken promises, all manner of marketing hype and misdirection, severely limited availability (unless you’re famous or have a LOT of money) and a price that is two to almost three times what was originally envisioned.

This comes from a company started by a number of self-promoting entrepreneurs who were quick to assure everyone that they were VERY smart guys, with impeccable credentials, and nothing but the best intentions for the sport aviation community.

Yeah… not so much.

Well… these really smart guys have now admitted (several times… under a bit of duress) that they can’t do much of what they promised and yet they still expect people to believe that buying an Icon A5 is a safe bet… This, after two accidents, including one that killed two members of its own company… in a manner that mimicked much of the radical, wild, flying promoted in various Icon promotional videos and shown off by a number of their demo pilots.

Last week, rumors started anew that Icon was in serious trouble--again… and that the way they expected to bail themselves out of their ongoing mess was to radically raise the price for their A5, two-place amphibian – to a point where buying some certified aircraft may turn out to be cheaper.

In the last few days, we’ve seen multiple copies of the memo that Icon has sent potential purchasers, that puts the Icon A5’s price well out of the region of reason and to a point where the vehicle now finds itself priced at 2-3 times that of existing competitive AVAILABLE aircraft like the Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey.

According to the memo that was circulated in the last few days, Icon stated the following to start off their most recent bad news.

“After more than a year of initial production, we now have clarity on the actual cost to make an A5. While the aircraft is significantly better than we first envisioned, it is also significantly more expensive. We must raise the price to build a sustainable business.”

This is a stunning statement made by a bunch of folks that painted themselves as visionaries and highly accomplished/educated business people with advanced degrees and more smarts than the average aviator… and yet they claim to FINALLY have a handle on pricing and production… again, after years of promises extolling their expertise and intelligence.

They quoted a NEW Base Price of $269,000, and a Fully Loaded Price of a staggering $389,000. And, please note that this pricing is ONLY for 2018.

The base price, we must note, is approximately twice what was promised for the finished airplane when it was first introduced.

Icon notes that, ”The last announced estimated pricing (in 2016) was $207K base and $257K fully loaded. The new pricing is no longer estimated; it is confirmed pricing for 2018 aircraft. We will announce 2019 pricing at the end of 2018.”

A few conversations at the recent AOPA Fly-In in Tampa, where Icon was on full display (and flying most of the event, albeit anemically), hypothesized that 2019 pricing could well exceed $400K for the fully loaded version and push $300K for the basic variant.

The Icon team seemed to know that their once highly-touted, ‘massive’ back-order list was going to take a hit and offered some caveats with the following:

“If you choose to take delivery of your A5, the good news is you may be able to get your aircraft much sooner than expected since there will be some open slots. There will be no additional charge to move up in 2018. Simply contact Sales and let them know and they will advise you of 2018 delivery options.”

The issue of sticker shock has apparently convinced Icon to develop other ownership strategies to try to save as much of the order book as may be possible… though ANN has received a great number of reports from those abandoning the concept of Icon ownership—often informing us that they have chosen other aircraft, instead.

None of Icon’s new ‘ownership’ strategies are anything heretofore unseen or all that innovative.

“For those who choose not to take delivery in 2018, we will do everything we can to keep you in the ICON family and get you access to an A5. Here are some programs we are developing:

Financing: 10-15 year financing (available now).
Leasing: 5-year leases to allow a lower monthly cash outlay.
Sharing: Partial ownership. We will help match customers together and facilitate shared ownership.
Managed (fractional): Club membership to allow fractional ownership where ICON would maintain and manage the fleet. The beta version of this is planned for early 2018.”

Evidence of what may be a tenuous financial position for the company was indicated with Icon’s pronouncement that all of the 2018 aircraft scheduled for production would consist of the costly “Fully Loaded” versions… although we have received conflicting info as to the number of aircraft that are scheduled to be built (if, in fact, they can build what they promise—again)… irrespective of the fact that Icon has yet to meet any of their primary production forecasts… or even demonstrate the expertise necessary to get those new airplanes built at all.

“Lastly, for manufacturing efficiency as we ramp production, only fully loaded A5 models will be delivered in 2018. In 2019, we will begin to offer A5s with fewer features. If you want a base aircraft, just advise Sales and we will keep you on the list in the order of seniority of your original deposit date and get you a base model as soon as they are available.”

ANN is in contact with a number of parties with credible knowledge of the Icon program and others who have true and extensive expertise in aircraft design and production. The general consensus is that Icon is a program with a poor future, that it has been extensively mismanaged, and that the company has been less than honest throughout the last decade, often resorting to grandiose claims and aggressive PR to make the company appear more capable than it has proven to be.

Few industry experts, thus far consulted, expect this company to survive without a major shake-up and/or a major cash infusion, with a number of remarks about Icon's excessive 'Burn Rate.' The consensus also believes that the current scenario—in terms of the many millions poured into this monstrosity, and the necessary sales required to seek some type of future profitability, are highly unlikely.

In the meantime; Icon continues to artfully utiliize gullible general media and pliable aviation media and associations (ostensibly using the promise, in part, of Icon ad and sponsor dollars) to get somewhat favorable press and treatment, while aggressively hiding from any potential media that might seek more truth about this scenario than has been available to this point. Icon Aircraft, for instance, was heavily promoted at the AOPA Fly-In in Tampa, where they were touted as a sponsor and where AOPA also directly marketed the availability of A5 rides at the event, to their membership.

But Icon has a problem with those that can’t be bought off with hype or sponsor dollars. And they're not remotely nice about it.

Icon has refused ANN requests for a flight test report or for follow-up interviews… and Icon-affiliated parties have gone on to attack, threaten, and libel ANN and/or ANN staff as a result of our ground-breaking stories that first alerted much of GA to problems with the Icon program and agenda.

In one particularly ludicrous scenario, a photographer that Icon has used for some aerial photography, Tyson Rininger, was shown to publish defamatory statements about ANN’s CEO (yours truly) by stating without equivocation, that the reason that the aforementioned CEO (again, me) was not allowed to fly the A5, was because ANN CEO Jim Campbell did not have a pilot’s license… despite a 40+ year career in which I have evaluated, flown and/or published reports on well over 1000 aircraft ranging from ultralights to jets and participating in hundreds of industry events, for decades, without my credentials being questioned.

And, yes, for the record, I do have a Pilot’s License, along with a number of ratings and other accomplishments.

So… Rininger, while apparently playing mouth-piece for Icon Aircraft, lied. And despite my proving the often-errant Rininger inescapably wrong, he has refused to retract his errant statements and issued profanities when confronted by his blatant falsehoods. Which is about par for the course where much of Icon is concerned.

Several parties, with prior relationships or knowledge of the Icon situation have voiced fear of Icon reprisals, for speaking out… making this situation somewhat more difficult to document… especially with the ‘advertorial’ that dominates so much of aviation media these days to counter the occasional truthful output that shows up… to the detriment of the safety, welfare and future of the aviation community.

Among the many questions, raised by all these shenanigans, is simply this… how long can Icon hang on before financial reality sets in… who may be harmed by Icon’s history of misdirection and falsehood, and how much damage might be done to the future of the aviation community if/when Icon folds it tent? Already, a number of promising sport and general aviation companies trying to raise cash and find investment have complained about the “Icon Effect” and the bad blood created by Icon’s continuing difficulties.

More info to follow…  

FMI: www.iconaircraft.com

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