Photos Courtesy of ICON AircraftWhen the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created the new Sport Pilot license and Light Sport Aircraft categories in 2004, making flying more accessible and affordable for everyone, ICON Aircraft was formed with the intent to "reinvent flying." Focusing on the consumer experience, the company wanted to combine fantastic engineering with unique product design to create fun sport planes meant to be functional and beautiful. With the completion of their first offering, the A5, ICON has just announced they've raised their fourth (and final) round of equity funding — totaling over $60 million — and will use the funds to finish product preparations, speed up production and expand their model line.
“We are thrilled to have the support of such a distinguished and passionate group of investors,” says Kirk Hawkins, CEO and Founder of ICON Aircraft. “For the first time in ICON’s history, the company’s future is no longer reliant on the whims of the capital markets, which have been highly unstable over the last five years. This D round includes an outstanding group of investors who are very committed to ICON’s mission to democratize flying. The round was led by a top-notch privately held strategic investor from China. The entire round represents a minority, non-controlling interest in ICON which ensures ICON’s original mission and strategy remains completely intact; the A5 will be U.S.-built, and the company will continue to be a U.S.-based, -led, and -managed organization.”
The equity funding includes investors from all North America, Europe and Asia. ICON believes that the financial support from Asia — which comes from a "multibillion-dollar conglomerate […] in the Chinese General Aviation industry — strategically places them in a strategic position in the country's growing aviation market.
"Creating a great aircraft and a great company from scratch is an extraordinarily difficult task," says Hawkins. "Furthermore, financing such an endeavor is an order of magnitude harder than just creating it — and fundraising is particularly difficult for aviation startups. This has been a longer and more challenging journey than even we had anticipated; that said, ICON is now in a great place. For everyone who has kept the faith, remained a great wingman, and waited patiently for the A5, you're going to get the most amazing sport aircraft ever created."
The ICON A5 boasts the ability to land nearly anywhere, from grassy plains to rivers and lagoons. With the ability to cruise through water, as well as air, the amphibious aircraft features a Seawings design that promises to be safe and easily handled — the wings even fold in for easy transport on a trailer. Considering the Sport Pilot license is fairly easy to get (just take the flight training, a written test, and finish the FAA Checkride), you can be flying around in the A5 in no time and if you're a little nervous at the controls, maybe add on the optional parachute for peace of mind.
The A5 (which costs around $139,000 and has an expected delivery date of 2016) has some pretty well-known fans, including actor John Travolta, Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath, US Aerobatic and Red Bull Air Race Champion Kirby Chambliss, and investor Joel Peterson, the Chairman of JetBlue Airways.
"Not only am I an investor in ICON, I'm a huge fan of the company and its vision for the future," says Peterson. "ICON is like Apple all over again — leveraging exceptional industrial design to deliver a truly inspirational product to consumers. I'm currently not a pilot, but the ICON A5 is an airplane even I'd learn to fly."