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Icon shifts A5 composite work to Mexico

As part of a plan to recover from early production problems, Icon Aircraft will build a new factory in Mexico to fabricate composite airframes for the A5, a two-seat amphibian sold in the light sport category.

The 300,000ft2 facility in Tijuana should open in November to feed a final assembly line in Vacaville, California, Icon announced on 7 September.

The new factory will use “Icon tooling processes and quality standards”, the company says.

Cirrus Aircraft had previously supplied Icon with composite airframes for the A5 from a factory in North Dakota. Icon has said that the decision to insource the composite fabrication work was not linked to concerns about Cirrus’ quality. In a new statement released on 7 September, Icon explained that assuming control over the supply chain allows the company to adapt faster to engineering adjustments.

“By bringing composite fabrication in-house, we will be able to ensure that components meet Icon’s strict quality and cost standards while also allowing us to more rapidly implement changes as we continue to improve our processes. As a result, we will improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process and supply chain to deliver a superior product,” says Icon chief executive Kirk Hawkins.

The A5 was awarded airworthiness certification several years late in July 2015. Icon planned a steep production ramp-up, delivering hundreds of the piston-powered type within a year of entering service. But those plans failed to materialise, and it would be a year before Icon delivered another aircraft.

In May, Icon announced plans to slow the production ramp-up to deliver only 20 aircraft this year. At the same time, the company would revamp the production system.

Icon becomes the latest aerospace company to open a major factory in Mexico. In the past 15 years, the country has become one of the world’s largest aerospace suppliers, leveraging a low-cost workforce and proximity to final assembly lines in the USA, Canada and Brazil. The new Icon facility in Tijuana lies just across the border from San Diego.

“Tijuana is ideal for Icon’s needs because it is a rapidly-emerging industrial center with the infrastructure and skilled labor force, including composites and aerospace expertise, to produce the volume and quality of composites we need to meet the significant A5 demand,” says Thomas Wieners, Icon’s vice-president of manufacturing.

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