ICON Aircraft will be opening a factory in Mexico later this year.
The company announced Wednesday it is building a 300,000-square-foot facility in Tijuana where composite airframe components for its A5, an amphibious two-seat, light-sport aircraft priced at approximately $200,000, will be produced.
ICON, headquartered in Vacaville, said the Tijuana facility will allow them to “in-source” this part of the manufacturing process, which was previously outsourced to several suppliers.
The new Tijuana facility is scheduled to open in November. It will eventually employ more than 1,000 people when it is fully operational.
The composites produced there will be delivered to ICON’s existing factory in Vacaville.
There, the rest of the manufacturing process will take place, including painting, systems installation and final assembly.
Flight testing and delivery of aircrafts to customers also will continue to take place in Vacaville.
“The establishment of the new facility will not affect the jobs of any of ICON’s current Vacaville-based employees,” the company said in a statement.
Vacaville city spokesperson Mark Mazzaferro said ICON let the city know of their plans, and he didn’t think it would take away from Vacaville.
“If anything, it’s going to speed up production for them,” he said.
In May, ICON announced it would be slowing its production rate from 175 to 20 planes this year, citing a need to ready its production process and parts of the supply chain for high-rate production.
The company reduced its workforce in Vacaville, mostly members of its aircraft assembly team.
At the time, the company had completed just seven aircraft and had 11 more in production, having received 30 composite airframe sets from its suppliers.
“ICON’s new composite facility in Mexico is central to the improved production strategy we announced this May,” ICON CEO and founder Kirk Hawkins said in a statement. “By bringing composite fabrication in-house, we will be able to ensure that components meet ICON’s strict quality and cost standards while also allowing us to more rapidly implement changes as we continue to improve our processes. As a result, we will improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process and supply chain to deliver a superior product.”
Thomas Wieners, ICON’s vice president of manufacturing, previously oversaw the setup and operation of Bombardier Recreational Products’ facility in Querétaro, Mexico, which produces Sea-Doo watercraft and Rotax engines and transmissions for Can-Am off-road vehicles.
“Manufacturing in Mexico is a powerful capability for a global industrial company, which many others in the aerospace, automotive and powersports sectors have recognized for years,” he said.
ICON pointed to global manufacturing companies like Bombardier, as well as Gulfstream, GE, Polaris, Audi and Ford, that have facilities in Mexico.
“Tijuana is ideal for ICON’s needs because it is a rapidly-emerging industrial center with the infrastructure and skilled labor force, including composites and aerospace expertise, to produce the volume and quality of composites we need to meet the significant A5 demand,” Wieners said. “Tijuana’s proximity to San Diego also reduces the time and cost to ship components to ICON’s aircraft assembly facility in California.”
With this most recent announcement, ICON added it still expects to complete 20 planes this year.
Recently, ICON delivered its 12th A5 to a customer. This plane also will be used for training at ICON Flight Centers, the first of which opened in Vacaville this summer.
ICON flight training and demonstrations at the flight centers are open to the public, with priority given to ICON customers.
An East Coast Flight Center will open later this year in Tampa, Fla, where an A5 arrived last week. Another flight center is planned for Texas next year.