Icon Aircraft is changing the world of private aviation to include sports flight. Inside the company’s newly opened showroom and test-flight facility at the Santa Monica Airport in Southern California, the region where much of aviation got its start, president and COO Thomas Wieners gave us the scoop on the A5 and its safety record.
Icon was created when the FAA approved the light sports aircraft category. What does that even mean?
The real focus for us is recreational flying. Not transportation. It’s all about having fun and discovering areas of the world that you can explore only through flying.
We mean flying with friends to enjoy the views, with the wind in your hair and arms out the windows.
How did you land at Icon Aircraft?
After working with Mercedes and Audi in Germany, I decided to do something more adventurous. I joined Bombardier Recreational Products—Sea-Doo, Can-Am, Ski-Doo—and relocated to Mexico to produce recreational power-sports vehicles. I joined Icon in 2015 as head of manufacturing and was tasked with bringing this product into serial manufacturing.
The A5 has had some high-profile crashes. How do you move past that?
Obviously, this has been bad and sad news for us. And no, there have not been changes made to the product, because the product is not what needed to change. We looked into this very carefully. We need to educate people. The aircraft is as safe as it possibly can get, but it’s not crash proof—you can still point the nose and go down. We’re trying to be proactive in communicating safe guidelines.
Is there greater training for clients?
If clients go through the training with us, we make sure that we point to all the safety aspects very clearly. But we try to educate the community as well. We believe in creating a community that makes flying safe a topic and takes it as seriously as we do.
I’m picturing motorcycles—super fun, super dangerous.
Right. And look at power sports products—snowmobiles, personal watercraft, ATVs … How often do you read about accidents with ATVs? Now we’re adding a third dimension: You’re in the air, and if something happens, it’s not likely to end well. But having created a plan that allows us to control it safely through the air, I think we’re adding to the safety factor.
So the A5 is an aircraft for fun, an extreme-sport-type vehicle.
It’s recreational sports flying. Fly responsibly.