Friday, January 30, 2015

Sports aircraft company CEO recalls effort to locate in Solano


Solano EDC meeting
Icon Aircraft Founder & CEO Kirk Hawkins speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting, at the Hilton Garden Inn, Thursday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
January 30, 2015 
FAIRFIELD — Attendees at the 32nd annual meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation heard firsthand Thursday about the modern mode of flying sport planes from the event’s keynote speaker, Kirk Hawkins, founder and chief executive of Icon Aircraft.

“It’s time to bring an aircraft to the consumer that they will fall in love with,” Hawkins told those at the sold-out luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

Icon Aircraft announced last year that it will build its Icon A5 two-seater sport plane at Vacaville’s Nut Tree Airport. Icon’s sales, service and flight training will all be located at the Vacaville site, Hawkins said.

The popularity of sport flying came about after the Federal Aviation Administration created a new category of aircraft and new category of sport pilot license, Hawkins said. New rules reduced the cost and time necessary to learn to fly. Obtaining a sport pilot license takes about half the time of a regular license, he said.

“It’s not as difficult as you think it is,” Hawkins said. “I can teach a person in a matter of hours.”

The Icon A5 sport plane carries a price of approximate $200,000 for a base model, Hawkins said. It features foldable wings and can land on water or solid ground. It is designed for speeds of 120 mph and a range of up to 300 miles. It burns both auto and aviation fuel.

Hawkins talked Thursday about the influence that attracted Icon to Vacaville and recognized those in attendance at the luncheon who played a role in drawing the startup aircraft company here.

There were a lot of reasons to choose Vacaville, he said.

“I was quite surprised at how aggressive they were in wanting us here,” he said.

The competition to attract Icon was competitive, with Texas and Arizona also being considered,
Hawkins said.

His company is currently located in Southern California and has about 100 employees, he said.

Hawkins estimates it will eventually employ 500 workers and have a $350 million annual economic impact to the region.

Icon will build about 20 aircraft this year and 400 in 2016, according to Hawkins. Future production could be 1,000 planes per year, he said.

Hawkins flew fighter aircraft in the Air Force and later was a pilot for American Airlines. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University and his master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University.

In other matters at Thursday’s luncheon, the Solano Economic Development Corporation recognized its board of directors for 2015. A special presentation was made to past chairwoman Patsy Van Ouwerkerk.

Reach Kevin W. Green at 427-6974 or