A new aircraft company has touched down at Santa Monica Airport, touting a futuristic airplane and an ambitious business plan.
ICON Aircraft, which is headquartered in Northern California, opened its first showroom at Corporate Hangar 7 last week. Visitors will be able to take demo flights in its futuristic ICON A5, an amphibious light plane with a streamlined cockpit the company markets as an accessible aircraft for weekend adventures like fly fishing or island hopping. The two-seater airplane retails for $389,000.
ICON is trying to make the experience of flying similar to jet skiing or quad biking, said president Thomas Wieners. The A5’s cockpit is designed to resemble the dashboard of a car and its safety features include a spin-resistant body and parachute. With its wings folded, the plane can be pulled by a car or boat.
“It’s all about bringing more people to flying,” Wieners said. “We want to make flying accessible for everyone and make it as safe as possible. We want to make it intuitive.”
Only 20 hours of flight experience are needed to get the sport pilot license required to fly the A5. That amount of training costs about $10,000 to $15,000. While the $389,000 price tag puts the A5 out of the price range of most would-be pilots, the company is exploring fractional ownership models, said David Crook, external vice president of revenue.
“Our mission is to democratize personal flight,” Wieners said. “We want to make sure flying is not for transportation from Point A to Point B, but for fun.”
85 planes are in the air and the company is in the process of fulfilling more than 1,000 pre-orders, Crook said. The planes are constructed at ICON’s plant in Tijuana, which employs 500 people, and finished in Vacaville, north of San Francisco. The company employs 200 people in the United States.
Santa Monica Airport may be closing in 2028, but the company sees the location as an ideal venue for its expansion and will remain there as long as possible, Crook said. The City of Santa Monica reached an agreement in 2017 with the Federal Aviation Administration to close the airport and shorten the runway while it’s still open. The 227-acre site will be turned into a park.
“It’s a beautiful place and there are a lot of beautiful places nearby that make sense to fly to,” Wieners said. “There’s an active aviation community and a lot of folks that enjoy outdoor recreation to engage with. The region is a hotspot for innovation and tech and that’s what we’re trying to bring into the aviation industry with the A5.”
Christian Fry, president of the Santa Monica Airport Association, said he thinks ICON will breathe new life into the airport and generate new pilots.
“The A5 is one of the most unique airplanes to come along in aviation’s history,” Fry said. “We’re excited to see new pilots discover this aircraft and enjoy this amazing facility that ICON has brought to our airport.”