Most aviation participants have been wringing their hands over the declining pilot population. FAA’s database of active pilots has dropped from 825,000 when I began flying to less than 600,000 today…all while the U.S. population has grown by 50 million. We are clearly doing something wrong, and have for too long had a too-inward focus. *** We have some worthy efforts of outreach. EAA has their fine Young Eagles program. AOPA has its Project Pilot. Companies like Cirrus rove from show to event with their mobile display. Yet we need to do much more. *** L.A.-based Icon Aircraft is one such company that is doing so, recently introducing their new Icon A5 LSA. While the company is presently focused on providing a fascinating new aircraft, they’re looking beyond the existing pilot market. According to their CEO Kirk Hawkins, “Icon’s mission is to bring the freedom, fun, and adventure of flying to the thousands of others who have always dreamed of it. Our research has shown that there is an enormous yet untapped consumer interest in aviation. To help unlock this potential, the Icon A5 is not only designed to deliver an amazing and safe flying experience, but is designed by some of the brightest minds in both the aviation and automobile industries to truly inspire us the way all great consumer products do.” Only time will tell if Icon will succeed and the real trick is exactly how to reach all these new folks. But I’m pleased to see an airplane company looking outside the box. It’s about time we stopped selling airplanes only to each other.
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