The second leg in Icon’s approach to safely making flying more accessible to those who want to do it (after the design of the aircraft) is an on-purpose training program that it controls. We spent time with Greg Zackney, Icon’s director of flight training, discussing the program it is putting in place and reviewing some of the training materials they have created.
The training program, via hard copy books and/or online study, is tailored for the individual’s level of experience—from someone with no flight time who needs a sport pilot certificate with an endorsement for LSA-ASES through seaplane pilots who just need transition training. The materials we saw contained what we felt to be realistic syllabi for each type of training involved and were well-produced.
There is sophisticated supplementary material on aerodynamics and aircraft performance available for the pilot who wants more than what is required for the sport pilot certificate or transition training. The training material and syllabi have a definite military feel to them—professional and no-nonsense. That is only to be expected as Zackney was a Marine aviator flying Harriers and company president Kirk Hawkins flew F-16s in the Air Force.
Icon told us that the price for training at Icon has not been established but it will be on a per-hour basis.
The agreements that must be signed by the customer to even buy an A5 require that there be a managing pilot (it can be the owner) for the airplane and that the managing pilot agrees to assure that anyone who flies it only does so after completing the training program set up by Icon with an Icon-approved flight instructor. The agreement signed by the managing pilot allows Icon to go to court to compel the managing pilot to live up to the terms of the agreement. In all of our conversations with Icon and our review of the sales agreements for the Icon we consistently noted Icon’s unwavering insistence that pilots who fly the A5 have solid training Icon’s way before being turned loose.
There is no requirement for recurrent training in the managing pilot agreement; however, Icon personnel told us that they recommend recurrent training every year. They know that the reason that pilots err and crash is most often because they have not had adequate initial or recent recurrent training. Icon is taking steps to aggressively fight pilot error accidents at their source. Whether pilots will do their part is something we’re going to be watching closely.
We asked how a brand-new sport pilot from Louisiana gets his airplane home after getting his rating in it at Icon’s facility at Vacaville, California. We were told that Icon will make mentor pilots available for owners who want to fly their airplanes home, will arrange for delivery pilots to fly them to the buyer’s home plate or will assist the buyer who wants to trailer her new airplane home (there’s not a lot of assistance necessary for that process).
We think the program of specially trained CFIs used by Cirrus and the specialized instruction facilitated by the American Bonanza Society have increased the safety level of those lines of airplanes. Accordingly, we applaud Icon’s even more aggressive approach to training for its customers.