ICON Aircraft announced that Bill James has joined the company as its new Vice President of Engineering. James brings 26 years of experience in aircraft manufacturing and engineering leadership. His previous roles have included Vice President of Engineering at Beechcraft, Chief Technical Officer at MD Helicopters, and leadership positions at Spirit AeroSystems and Airbus. He has led several major aircraft programs from development to production including the USAF trainer T6A Texan II, AT-6 Light Attack aircraft, and several King Air and Hawker jet derivatives.
“I am excited to be here, ” said James. “Joining ICON was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is a visionary company with an amazing aircraft that I believe has the ability to truly change aviation at the consumer level. There’s been an extraordinary amount of engineering by this team to date to get the A5 ready for production. There also remains an extraordinary amount of work ahead to scale that success. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to lead this team and grow the operation into rate production and beyond. There are a lot of cool things ahead at ICON.”
The hire of James reflects ICON’s increased focus on optimizing production as the company moves out of the heavy prototyping phase, which was led by outgoing Vice President of Engineering Matthew Gionta. James will work closely with Gionta, who will stay on as ICON’s Chief Technical Officer in the near term to help manage the transition of the A5 from low-rate to full-scale production. Going forward, James will be responsible for continued engineering work to develop the A5 and any other aircraft the company may produce.
“Bill James is ideally suited to bring ICON into its own as a manufacturer of world-class aircraft, ” said Gionta. “He has the intelligence, experience, and tenacity that defines ICON and has consistently demonstrated his ability to effectively lead new aircraft programs through production.”
“ICON’s culture is about leadership, ” said ICON Aircraft’s CEO Kirk Hawkins. “Bill James is a proven engineering leader and consummate aviation professional. His talents are key to ICON’s continued product innovation and successful scaling into a mature, production-focused aircraft company. And even more importantly, while Bill is a battle-tested, production aircraft engineering executive, he’s also a passionate, charismatic leader who has the heart and determination we require to lead at ICON. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
In April, ICON completed and flew the first aircraft that will be delivered to a customer. The aircraft will play a central role in the FAA acceptance of the A5, which is scheduled to occur next month when FAA officials conduct a 3-day audit at ICON’s facility in Tehachapi, California.
About ICON Aircraft:
ICON Aircraft is a consumer sport plane manufacturer founded in response to the sport flying category created by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2004. ICON’s first plane is the A5, an amphibious sport aircraft that fuses outstanding aeronautical engineering with world-class product design. It has won some of the world’s most prestigious design awards and has inspired a global following. The company has received more than 1, 800 order deposits and delivered the first production aircraft in July 2015. ICON Aircraft’s facilities are in Vacaville, CA, 50 miles from San Francisco.
About FAA Light Sport Aircraft & Sport Pilot Classifications
In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a new classification of easy-to-fly and affordable two-person airplanes called Light Sport Aircraft. These airplanes enable a new classification of Sport Pilots to fly in lower-altitude, uncongested airspace, during the daytime, and in good weather. The Sport Pilot License focuses on the fundamentals of flying and requires a minimum of 20 hours of in-flight training, undercutting the time and cost of a traditional Private Pilot License by about 50%. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has described these new rules as “the biggest change in aviation in 50 years.”