Icon A5 limps into production surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers

In the department of “Why you don’t want to invest in a U.S. aviation company,” back in 2010 I wrote up a review of the Icon A5 amphibious seaplane that the company promised to ship in 2011. They made a lot of noise in July 2015 about delivering the first production unit, but have been quiet since then. This AOPA article indicates that real production won’t begin until some time later in 2016.

Back in 2010 I wrote

It is not hard to see who would want to buy a fun toy like the ICON A5, but one has to wonder who funds a company like this. Suppose that ICON sells al 500 airplanes and collects $200,000 in revenue from each customer. That’s $100 million. Suppose that two percent of those 500 aircraft are involved in fatal crashes in which a jury finds ICON liable, either for telling unlicensed pilots that they could learn how to fly an amphib in 20+ hours or for not including a gear-down-in-water warning system. That’s 10 crashes. Suppose that each crash costs $10 million. One hundred percent of the company’s revenue has thus been paid out in legal awards.

It appears that the company has been thinking along similar lines. The AOPA article describes extraordinary efforts by the company to limit its liability through 41 pages of legalese that have been sprung on formerly unaware customers. The company imposes a transfer fee on anyone who tries to sell an airplane, restricts training and maintenance options (the owner of an FAA-certified aircraft actually would end up with far more flexibility), and gives itself the right to repurchase aircraft in case an owner has the opportunity to sell one at a profit. The company has imposed a 6000-hour, 30-year airframe life, which is kind of odd considering that composite aircraft aren’t subject to metal fatigue and this plane is not pressurized, which is the typical reason for having an airframe life (e.g., the TBM has a 12,000-cycle or 16,200-hour life limit).

Here’s one comment:

I just refused the proposed contract. Asked for a refund of my deposit. I have signed nothing with Icon; yet they first refused to return all of my deposit, then agreed to refund the whole deposit in about 6 weeks IF I agreed to another lengthy document regarding my rights. I have refused to sign anything this company conjures up. We will see how long it takes them to return my money. I am extremely disappointed.


  • Now that Icon has cranked up its prices, what you can buy for about the same money: Grumman G-44 Widgeon (Alaska-ready five-seat twin-engine IFR-certified amphib), available on Controller right now for $200,000 to $325,000

2 thoughts on “Icon A5 limps into production surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers

  1. It’s going to be a challenge to fit “By pressing this, pilot agrees to terms and conditions set forth in the Icon aircraft sale and use contract” on the Engine Start button.

  2. Legally speaking, contracts are only enforceable against people who have “privity of contract” . So if I am a passenger in one of those planes or a poor lonely widow deprived of my spouse’s sexual services, the contract means nothing.

    The airframe life limitation has nothing to do with the actual life of the airframe but seems to be an attempt to limit the liability “tail” from aircraft that were sold decades ago. Of course most small aircraft makers (and I’m guessing Icon will be one of them) don’t survive for 30 years without having their liability slate wiped clean in bankruptcy at least once if not several times during that period.

Comments are closed.