Articles

Kirk Hawkins: ICON Aircraft

September 1, 2019


[MUSIC] I grew up as a child, enthusiastic passion
about doing things that were adventurous. Getting out and exploring the planet, whether that was motorcycles, or boats, or
airplanes. Flying was something that when I was very early age, I found very Inspirational. It was the ultimate freedom. Aviation today is really about moving your
body from A to B, but when it comes to enjoying flying as an
experience,. It doesn’t exist. I spent about eight years in the Air Force
flying F-16’s. When I left the military and I came back
to Stanford Business School. I was trying to get out of a flight suit
and into a business suit. I happened to notice one day in a magazine
a little obscure rule change. And it was the FAA saying that they were
going to announce a new class of airplane called
Light Sport Airplanes. It is a new class that is licensed for the
pilot and the concept was, to finally make airplanes
accessible to the average human being. Make them safe and affordable. And a license you can get in a matter of a
couple weeks. So there was a moment when I realized what
aviation could be. And as an academic exercise, I was going
to study it. In each class, I would spin them towards
something related to this project, so the first one was a
market analysis. And an a-ha was whoa, there’s a big market
here, bigger than I expected. The other a-ha moment was if a startup does not do this, it likely will not
materialize. I had a business plan and I had thrown the
switch to on.>>Kirk and I met in a design class, an engineering design class at
Stanford and every project we had, Kirk found a way to turn that project into some kind of
aviation experience. We actually reconnected later on when I
was teaching product design at Stanford and he was back at the
DSB. We reconnected over, over lunch. During lunch it hit me. Can I show you a Powerpoint? And he goes, alright, so I pull up my
Powerpoint.>>He basically detailed out all of the
opportunity.>>And I go, did I, I think you’re the guy
I’m looking for. What you know about the consumer product
design process. What your teaching at Stanford. What you lived and breathed. The airplane world doesn’t know. I know enough about that to know I need
somebody like you.>>It’s easy for me to go, okay, I can see
where this could be in the future. And that’s why, as the story goes, you
know, the next morning I’m calling him up.>>He goes, I so get this. He goes, I, I’m in. I’m all in. What do you need?>>In a way you could say that the work
Kirk did it, the GSP, is directly leading to
this product we have.>>That’s the beginning of the DNA of the
company.>>If you wanna take advantage of this recreational opportunity, the best way to
do that is to bring recreational flying to the
forefront, and really make a powersport out of
aviation. By the time I left Stanford I felt
confident enough in my fundamental business acumen,
understanding of things, so that I could walk in any board room with any business executive, and I felt
comfortable having a dialogue. And that confidence is important. And the tool set that I got there was
invaluable in the next phase. And that is creating the company.>>As we move from business strategy into implementation and design, what should
this airplane be? What should it deliver? What’s the lifestyle? How will people use it? We quickly honed in on this notion of
alright, we’ll have an amphibious airplane that allows you to fly and land
on land or land on water.>>It’s not airport to airport. This is airport to off airport.>>So we have folding wings that allows
you transportation to move your airplane
wherever you wanna take it. It makes it more recreational.>>Now you can taking it camping, fishing,
exploring, wherever you want. And so the company is more than an
airplane. It’s about really honoring the human experience and delivering you something
that, that. When you finally go out and fly you find
that you can fly. It’s save, you can learn to do it in a reasonable amount of time, you actually
can afford it. Our goal is for our customers when they
come back from the first time and they fly, they go oh my
God.>>But all those things tie back to that
original strategy that came out of the GSB which is we are going to create a
power sport around recreational flying. It’s a two person one engine relatively
lightweight simple airplane that a new sport pilot can learn to fly in about
two weeks very safely. And you look at the airplane you look at
the cock pit and you go it’s relatively simple, I can understand
this cockpit it looks like something I can do. That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by people who understand that
process.>>The design process at icon is really
based on what we learned at Stanford. And that’s the classic ideate, build, test
and repeat. And you learn from that testing and then you go back and you iterate that process
again. We’re the first conventional aircraft
that’s met the full FAA suspended resistance standard, so what that means for you is
that it is very safe.>>What the A5 is is an unadulterated,
unapologetic, representation, an execution of what
flying is romantically designed to be, and that’s this human
aspirational experience.>>I think both Kirk and I feel that
Stanford has been transformative in our personal
lives and our careers.>>I can say this infratically if it was
not for Mike’s appearances at Stanford both in engineering and design
school and the business school, icon would not
exist.>>All the sort of Stanford networks and connections and influencers that we still
rely on today. It’s easy to say that without those Stanford experiences Icon would not have
been an idea and it certainly wouldn’t have
reached the place where it is today.>>I feel indebted because that, that
experience was, was critical to where we have come from today and where
we’re going in the future. [MUSIC]

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