Icon death watch

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by zaitcev, Aug 2, 2019.

  1. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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    Looks like it's a good time to start.

    Although it was clear from the start that the business was not sustainable at the volumes that market could support, they postponed the reckoning for quite a while.

    "Vacaville, Calif., – Aug. 2, 2019 – ICON Aircraft announced today that it is reducing its employee headcount as part of a revised business plan focused on improved operational efficiency. The move lowers cost structure across the organization and right-sizes the business for current ICON A5 demand.

    “For long-term success, we need to make tough decisions,” said Thomas Wieners, ICON President and COO. “ICON is currently structured for higher volume production, but after producing more than 100 aircraft, we now have a very good understandings of costs. And while the ICON A5 is truly an exceptional plane, the necessary higher price lowers demand considerably and requires us to adjust the organization size as a result.”

    The restructuring comes on the heels of recently received funding from investors. The funding enables ICON to keep all core functions operational, but with more streamlined staffing. In total, approximately 40 percent of ICON’s workforce will be impacted, reducing the employee base from nearly 650 to about 400 team members."

    https://www.iconaircraft.com/updates/2019/icon-q2-2019-business-update

    Wieners was already the president and COO when the founder, Kirk Hawkins, was removed from the role of the CEO in November 2018. We probably should've opened this thread back then, really.
     
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  2. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    Icon was a well funded, well organized effort. The plane is good, so unlikely it will completely disappear. But a lot of the original capital has/will get written off. And the company may yet end up getting completely restructured under new ownership with even more new capital injected.

    It's another example of how brutally tough the light GA business really is. And I continue to find it hilarious when armchair economists on this forum explain how Cessna and Piper are "overcharging", and others bemoan the fact nobody builds a "modern" airplane, with a cool new motor.

    Icon looks like a modern airplane with a modern motor. The amphibian seems like a pretty versatile concept too. But the market for new light certified airplanes is pretty tiny. And each segment within it, tinier still. So every new piston airplane manufacturer out there is running a cottage industry. The only way to make margins in a low volume market is to treat it as a luxury goods business, as Cirrus figured out; it stays in business by selling half the number of piston airplanes it did a dozen years ago at more than twice the price. Aviat has gone the same route with the Husky, pushing out a limited number of +/- $350,000 rag & tube airplanes loaded with glass panels, big tires and elaborate paint. Icon is belatedly trying to head down the same path in earnest now.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  3. dans2992

    dans2992 En-Route PoA Supporter

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    It always amazes me that they find “investors” to throw money down holes like this...

    Icon, Eclipse, Adam Aircraft, etc etc.

    Cirrus is the _only_ one that’s been successful. I wonder what the ROI on an investment in Cirrus has been?
     
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  4. Getonit

    Getonit Pre-takeoff checklist

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    650 employees x $50,000 loaded cost / 100 airplanes is $325,000 worth of labor cost per airplane...... ballpark/napkin/simplified estimates.....now let’s figure cost of goods and other overheads.....they have Lots bigger problems. As someone said boutique business and relies on gullible investors.
     
  5. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Cirrus is owned by the Chinese now. ROI was probably decent but the investors weren’t hanging around waiting for natural growth to pay them back. They bailed at the first sign of fast cash.

    As far as why investors jump into these things, first many have the money to lose. They know the risk level and this is just play money at the casino for them.

    Secondly have you SEEN the crap with horrible financials that people will invest in, in the modern market, just because whatever the company makes fancies the investors? They’ll convince themselves that profits are “just one more year away” right into the bankruptcy where only the Founder’s shares are paid back by the buy out deal.

    The new company could send them a 5% off coupon on the product and they’d be happy they lost money on the whole thing.

    And even institutional investors buy these garbage companies. The “safety” of mutual funds is a lie if they do, too.

    Watch carefully what your fund managers buy. They are desperate for growth numbers and they’ll pick any old valueless crap to stuff your portfolio with. Stuff that selling off the assets won’t even pay back single digit percentages of the investors.

    Some are banking on popularity to force the government into more free loans/bailouts in certain sectors. There’s less and less connection to the balance sheets when they’re digging hard for growth that may or may not happen buying the stocks of companies that are flat out bankrupt already on the books.

    “Someone will come save them. They’re too popular to die.”

    Not really a thing much in aviation outside of airliner manufacturing, but in other sectors? Whoooo boy. Lots of bankruptcies awaiting the next market downturn outside of the traditional “value” investors.

    The only good news is, we’ve completely proven that the majority of the masses of fund managers don’t beat index funds in the long term. We can all get smashed or profit together. And the market is so stuffed with retirement money that can’t be easily withdrawn, we all will.

    Losers won’t always lose anymore, because Congress has to act when Dad and Mom’s retirement money is at stake and Congress themselves made it impossible to exit. (Well, investors could move to cash inside retirement vehicles but most aren’t that investment savvy.)

    Incentives to retirement savings come with an unwritten mandate to not allow anything but mass volatility. Large cap volatiles in a particular sector are rescued. GM should be dead. AIG should be dead. Numerous banks should be dead (Wells Fargo many times over for their criminal culture...), etc.

    Lehmann was the last one they put out to pasture the old fashioned way, forced liquidation with a gun to their heads. Oh a few small banks also got that treatment, but in terms of big well known names...

    After that, the rules changed. Popularity beats balance sheets now. Profit isn’t always required as long as the product is popular. Or seen as necessary.

    Not sure we’re close to being back to no-income-proof mortgages yet, but we’re happy to go the other direction... any income approved for a mortgage you can’t possibly pay back in any reasonable time that’s way above 25% of take home. Just make the number bigger if you can’t make the pool of customers bigger.

    Chosen as an example of product popularity and pushing margins as tight as possible, even requiring government guarantees up front along with private insurance paid by every non-conforming loan customer but in some cases, throughout the life of the loan, even if it becomes conforming by being laid down or housing prices rising causing equity to rise.

    Standard P&L math was never the whole story of a company, but it’s become less and less valued by a great many. It’s very rare for anyone touting value investing to be seen talking about it much in air time on outlets like CNBC, etc... as compared to a couple of decades ago. They’re considered “stodgy”.
     
  6. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    :thumbsup:

    For sure Nate's baaaack! :D
     
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  7. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    How about Tesla, Lyft, Uber and Snap, just to name a few prominent, recent chronic loss maker examples from other sectors. That's what happens when our Central Banks flood the world with ZIRP and NIRP liquidity. The ultimate money for nothin' scheme.

    As for the ROI on Cirrus, the full-cycle, since-inception return on capital employed (which includes subsidies from Duluth and Grand Forks, and the loss on SATSair) is almost certainly negative. First Islamic Bank of Bahrain (ArCapita) bought controlling interest (58%) in the company in 2001 (I had some dealings with ArCapita circa 2005 on a Middle East project of mine when I lived in Bahrain, and they told me about their Cirrus ownership when they found out I was a pilot). Ten years later (2011), in the aftermath of the financial crisis that almost bankrupted the company, the Chinese government bought the whole thing for $210 million (ArCapita had been trying to sell its share for 4 years, and undoubtedly realized a much lower price than it expected in 2007, the year after the company sold a record 721 airplanes. It has never surpassed that since btw).

    Who knows how much additional development capital has been poured into it since, but I seriously doubt the jet and the Knoxville Vision Center development costs were funded solely from the free cash flow of piston aircraft sales. Those type of investment costs typically get amortized over a decade or more.

    But it's currently manufacturing and delivering a very respectable 10 to 12 airplanes a week, most of them SR22s and jets optioned to the limit and selling for good margins. It's the only jet maker of significance selling to private individuals who fly-their-own; the others target the corporate market. It knows it's niche customer demographic is the only one that has seen rising income in the past couple of decades. And it wouldn't appear it's in any danger of losing many customers to competition from Icon, Mooney, Epic or anyone else. If Cirrus can't make money in small, private owner GA, nobody will.

    Am I the only one that finds it ironic a company selling expensive, exclusive luxury baubles to mostly high-net-worth US entrepreneurs, doctors and bankers is owned by the Chinese government?
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  8. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    My favorite money sink was always Moller.
     
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  9. Unit74

    Unit74 Final Approach

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    Maybe Raptor can pick them up and finally have a flying airplane........
     
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  10. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    What's P&L
     
  11. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    When drones became cheap and powerful, I wondered how Dr. Moller's contraption would fare. He could use a lot of that technology. But his numbers never added up; his claimed performance was impossible.
     
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  12. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I think most intelligent people looking to buy an Icon will view the accidents as what they were, dumb mistakes by dumb pilots and not an issue with the aircraft itself. No death watch is called for. They will continue forward and will probably offer models with higher horsepower Rotax engines.
     
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  13. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    So it took 'new' money just to keep from going nips up? Don't sound good
     
  14. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The better logic in the drones probably could have solved the controllability issues he had, but as you realized, there's simple thrust to weight numbers that are always going to apply. You can't just scale up a quad copter lineraly either, Sam Langley learned that the hard way back in 1903.
     
  15. Briar Rabbit

    Briar Rabbit Line Up and Wait

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    Profit & Loss
     
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  16. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    Some of those "dumb pilots" had flashy credentials and quite a bit of experience. But common sense seemed to be lacking.
     
  17. Tarheelpilot

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    I would make a bet it’s less than break even ... at least for the original group. Today someone is making money. No way they made it where they are now without someone losing their shirt.
    Based on no fact... only assumptions. But I would still make the bet
     
  18. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    Underpowered and didn't do a good enough job of copying Dornier.
     
  19. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    This is quite common. That's where the old saw "The second owner makes the most money" originates. Tons of start-ups in virtually every sector of the economy have experienced this over a long time.

    Cirrus went through exactly the same thing, several rounds of equity financing before being bought cheap by the infinitely deep pocketed Chinese government (who therefore don't need to raise external financing).

    Icon's built ~100 planes. The product seems well engineered and quite good; certainly a hell of a lot better than a lot of the garbage, like the Raptor, being peddled out there. They underestimated the cost of developing, producing, marketing and supporting the product, and overestimated the market volume. Icon is far from the first company in GA to do that. But someone is going to buy the company, or the assets & the rights to the developed product, cheap. And like the Chinese govt with Cirrus, they will have the best chance to generate a positive return on their capital employed.
     
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  20. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    Not a situation unique to Icon however.
     
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  21. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Ah. Got it. With the promise we will cut the fat, they get new investors.
     
  22. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    I don't know much about LSA rules, but assume the reason Icon used only a 100 hp engine had something to do with that? Is that likely to be a limitation upgrading the product going forward?
     
  23. Warmi

    Warmi Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Nah ... there are LSAs with 180 HP engines ( with limited useful load - https://www.trade-a-plane.com/searc...SAVAGE+CUB&listing_id=2329686&s-type=aircraft)
    To qualify as a LSA a plane can not go faster than 120 knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level - which again, there are LSAs that can easily fly 130 knots or so and there are planes that go 150-160 knots on Rotax 100 HP engine so speed limits is not really the reason why they don't put large engines.

    I think the basic limitation is the gross weight - you can't get a big engine on a plane that is limited to 1320 LBS and still have a reasonable useful load - now FAA stated officially that this limitation will go away and it will be replaced by some kind of formula etc ... so if Icon survives a few more years, then will be able to stick Rotax 915 140 HP on their planes ( or even something bigger ) no problem and still offer decent useful load.
     
  24. Stephen Shore

    Stephen Shore Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Design a new GA airplane and go after the "amphipious" adventure market? Talk about narrowing your target market down to the smallest possible niche.

    I know that they are trying to create a market, but the worst possible thing a business can do is to answer a question that no one is asking.

    I have done that!
     
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  25. Cogito

    Cogito Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Icon was given an FAA waiver for an additional 250lb, on top of the 1,430lb. LSA Amphibian weight limit. They chose to add only 80 of those pounds for a total of 1,510 lbs. Other LSA restrictions still apply.
     
  26. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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  27. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Not just a GA plane, but an LSA as well, an even smaller market which is being made smaller yet by Basic Med.
     
  28. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    There's "stupid money" and there's "smart money". The former is governed by emotion. The latter has rules, discipline and structure it follows to deploy capital. Full disclosure, my "investment" in my airplanes is unquestionably stupid money, so wtf do I know. :D

    I'm currently running three related companies I co-founded that operate in the US and Canada. Being "the second owner" is one aspect of our business strategy. In the midst of one of the longest economic expansions ever, record low unemployment and a so-called boom, we continue to opportunistically buy up distressed assets from overleveraged competitors, or their banks, refurbish/upgrade/rebrand them, and put them to work either in our own operating company fleet or selectively leased long term directly to some of our customers. It's a bit of a virtuous circle because we can undercut our competitors while generating a superior return on our capital employed.

    My single most important performance measure has always been discounted return on capital employed (DROCE). Operating profits are important, critical in the short term. But a company that keeps going back to the capital markets, especially one that keeps diluting the equity of its early investors, or over-leverages itself with debt, when it is not growing rapidly enough means it is not earning at least its cost of capital (even while it reports operating profits). That is not a sustainable business. Some day Tesla will be a HBS MBA program case study of exactly this.

    The new money coming into Icon is almost certainly getting a major chunk of the equity, and control, at the expense of the early investors; in other words a serious discount to the seed and any secondary raise capital. Its coming in on the premise it can turn around the company with a solid, executable business plan, and most likely the intent is to create a profitable liquidity event for themselves by selling the entire enterprise as a successful going concern to other investors down the road.

    I hear what you are saying, but not sure I agree with the first statement. The amphib seems a good way to expand the audience; it can go to almost any airport on land and also be used to go places on the water many other, competing, aircraft need to be converted (to floats) to access. It eliminates all the problems with trying to find fuel for a seaplane dockside, and sheltering it from weather on the water.

    One of the most popular LSAs out there is the Aerodyne SeaRey amphibian (the author Richard Bach has one he loved flying so much he had it rebuilt after his wire strike accident). Some others are the Petrel, the Aventura and even the twin-engine Air Cam on floats. The Icon seems a much more refined product, targeting a more upscale market, compared to any of these others however.

    And Icon is well ahead of some others trying to compete with them in this space, like these folks (although I haven't heard if this effort has actually made any progress in recent years):

    https://www.mvp.aero/introduction/
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
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  29. Warmi

    Warmi Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It this context, a touring , fun ,small and simple plane - LSA or GA doesn’t make that much difference , this is not a cross country traveling machine - hell once they up the gross limit and allow for 4 seats, a non-certified , factory build plane that can use experimental avionics etc ... will be an advantage.
     
  30. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    They announced a RIF.
     
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  31. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    My question is, if you get laid off, were you really a "team member," or just an employee? :skeptical:
     
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  32. Crashnburn

    Crashnburn Line Up and Wait

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    You are a team member until you are CUT from the team.
     
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  33. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    You have been promoted to customer!
     
  34. Half Fast

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    Maybe they could just promote the excess employees to sales reps and let Darwin take care of the situation naturally....
     
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  35. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Despite my well know opinions on their marketing and general company culture it would be a shame to see the aircraft itself cease production. It's an admittedly cool looking plane with many modern features on it. If Icon does ultimately go belly up hopefully someone else can continue producing them, maybe tweak the design a bit and relaunch it

    And if you read about the cultures at Icon and Adam you'll find that there were some serious deficiencies in management. They ditched Hawkins quite readily as CEO and moved him into a "founder" position, I think realizing that he may not be the best CEO. Sure every company will have a few unhappy employees, but there was even a famous (reddit?) post a while ago from a guy who worked at Adam and basically eviscerated them and their management

    ..and Epic is still (sort of) kicking.. their plane could be a real TBM killer

    What Cirrus did right, financial things aside, is they identified and sought to resolve many of the issues that people were having with GA.. that they're cramped, out dated, not safe, etc., so they designed something that answered that and created a whole life style brand behind it. You weren't just buying a plane, you were buying a fast safe modern plane and buying into the life style that comes with it.. you're not just buying the boat, but the yacht club it's part of

    Despite the "cool" factor of many of Icon's marketing elements, the majority of people aren't type A adrenaline junkies, in fact, the vast majority of pilots I talk to are very pragmatic when it comes to their choice of airplane, balancing cost, performance, capabilities, etc. So they were indeed marketing to a tiny pool of buyers... rich people looking for thrill who either had a pilot license or were interested in aviation and did not want a plane with any real "abilities" outside of effectively being a jet ski with wings. It really is nothing more than a cool toy. Relative to sales of Ford Toyota GM, etc., how many Ariel Atoms / Ferrari / etc., are sold?

    I honestly think marketing and brand perception and appeal is a HUGE contributor to how successful a company can be. Nintendo blue ocean'd themselves and are huge now..

    PS - people seem to insinuate that the only reason Cirrus is successful is because of the Chinese... don't the Chinese also own Mooney.. you don't see Mooney selling hundreds of planes each year. There is *MUCH MORE* to a company's success than simply the money and who's paying what bills
     
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  36. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    No insinuation about it. The Chinese government doesn't own Mooney. The Chinese govt owners of Cirrus had the financial depth to complete development and certification of a clean sheet new jet airplane, among other things. Mooney's private Chinese owners don't appear to have anything close to the development capital to do anything of the sort. They are struggling trying to inject enough development effort into the current line-up to keep it somewhat relevant.

    It has nothing to do with being Chinese money, and everything to do with an owner that has lots of it.

    As for Epic being a potential TBM killer, you must be joking. Do you seriously think a friggin' kitplane can compete with a product from a company like Daher Socata?
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  37. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    well that's why I wrote sort of, and potentially. Looking strictly at the performance numbers it's a 330 knot 30,000 ft platform with decent payload

    Don't get me wrong, if I had a million bucks to burn today I'd be looking at a TBM and not Epic. But despite that they're still around and kicking
     
  38. dans2992

    dans2992 En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Supposedly the Epic LT is on the road to becoming certified. Looks like an awesome plane, but I still would probably not invest in the company given the track record of sooo many airplane companies going bankrupt or at the very least barely breaking even.
     
  39. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    "Start with a large one."
     
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  40. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    Epic has been talking about certification since the day after the Wright Brothers flight, or so it seems.

    I'd bet the kitplane origins are causing them no end of grief in this process, assuming they're still doing anything to progress certification.

    The crash this spring in Germany, that took the life of the Russian owner's wife, didn't help the cause I'll bet.