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Icon A5 production slowdown amid customer backlash

Icon Aircraft has slowed production for the A5 amphibian from 175 aircraft this year to 20 and revised a controversial purchase agreement after a backlash from customers.

The California-based start-up ceremonially delivered the first aircraft as a charitable donation to the Young Eagles, a youth aviation organisation, in July 2015.

But ambitious plans to aggressively ramp up deliveries to 175 aircraft in 2016 have been thwarted by quality control issues by suppliers and at the final assembly stage, Icon says in a statement released on 24 May.

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“While the A5 is extremely well-engineered and an amazing aircraft to fly, frankly we need to improve its manufacturability. We’ll have to slow down and walk before we run,” says Icon chief executive Kirk Hawkins.

The composite two-seat seaplane with a retractable landing gear for runway access has attracted over 1,000 deposits from potential customers. The production slowdown means a roughly one-year delay for most A5 buyers.

“I realise this news will be as big a disappointment for many of our customers as it is for us. I wish there was a better answer,” Hawkins says.

Icon has completed seven A5 aircraft so far, but the number of deliveries has not been released. Thirty composite aircraft sets have reached final assembly and 11 are in the production flow. Icon’s private group of investors have committed another round of a “substantial” investment in the company to incorporate manufacturing changes that will improve the quality of production, the company says.

Icon has also revised changes to a 40-page sales agreement that was sent to customers two months ago, prompting a backlash over onerous requirements aimed at avoiding liability suits. The revised agreement will be distributed to customers in a few weeks.

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