Acknowledging that the A5 amphibian’s lengthy sales contract makes some customers “uncomfortable”, Icon Aircraft says it may review the terms in the 41-page document as the single-engine type nears a long-awaited debut.

“If we need to improve our contract to help safely grow our industry, we will,” Icon founder Kirk Hawkins writes in the 8 April letter sent to customers.

But Hawkins also defends the purpose of the legally-binding contracts which require, for example, Icon’s customers to buy and maintain a flight data recorder in the aircraft that must be accessible to the manufacturer at any time.

The US Congress signed the General Aviation Revitalization Act in 1994, shielding manufacturers of aircraft with fewer than 20 seats from product liability lawsuits starting 18 years after delivery. The law is credited with a renaissance in single-engined aircraft production in the USA, a sector which almost disappeared as liability premiums soared in the 1980s, accounting at one point for $100,000 of the product cost of every aircraft delivered.

Icon’s letter insists the industry still faces a “product liability crisis” that could drive small manufacturers out of business, so it has carefully crafted a sales contract that protects its legal interests.

Icon A5

Icon Aircraft

“The problem of safety-related product liability is massive, lurks well below the surface and must be addressed,” Hawkins writes.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association is also lobbying to increase protections from frivolous liability suits. The trade group is examining the feasibility of having all manufacturers instal flight data recorders in general aviation aircraft as a defence against spurious claims of product defects.

Since launching development in 2008, Icon Aircraft has taken “roughly” 2,400 deposits for the two-seat amphibian with a wing tailored to resist entering into a dangerous spin following a stall event.

The California-based start-up appeared to be close to transitioning into the production phase in July. Icon ceremonially “delivered” the first production aircraft to the Young Eagle pilot youth group at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. But the company has yet to deliver another aircraft nine months later.

Icon plans to deliver at least 23 A5s up to 24 June, with a fully outfitted aircraft priced at $248,000.