In the face of intense market rejection, Icon says it has heard its customers and is going to revise the rather onerous purchase contract it planned to require of its buyers. It hasn’t yet made the new contract public. But in a statement it says that one thing the new contract will keep is the requirement that anyone buying an A5 sign away their rights to sue Icon after an accident.
Another fundamental tenet of ICON’s approach to safe flight operations, personal pilot responsibility, and product liability-cost reduction is the agreement not to sue ICON for accidents that are not determined to be our fault. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of product liability lawsuits are filed against manufacturers even when the manufacturer was not found to be at fault. We must address this. While there is no silver bullet for guaranteeing safety and eliminating all product liability costs, we are working hard to improve it. This is one of those steps. We invite our customers to help us set a new precedent in our industry and to improve this situation by releasing ICON from accidents deemed not to be our fault by the NTSB. Reducing product liability costs is important because it reduces the cost of aircraft and allows manufacturers to spend that money on product development instead of legal fees and lawsuit settlements.
At first blush, all that sounds reasonable. Why should an A5 buyer be able to sue Icon after a crash if the NTSB places the blame for an accident elsewhere?
Well, for one thing, the NTSB is not a fair forum. After any accident, the NTSB “invites” the aircraft’s manufacturer to participate in the investigation, relying on the manufacturer and its experts to help pinpoint the accident’s cause. But the NTSB never allows the pilot or the pilot’s passengers to participate, nor does the NTSB allow experts hired by the pilot or the passengers anywhere near the investigation. The pilot and passengers are entirely excluded. If that sounds like a conflict of interest, it is. It’s no wonder the NTSB seldom finds the manufacturers at fault. Nor is it surprising that courts of law, after hearing from both sides, frequently come to conclusions different than those reached by the NTSB.
And in fact, it is because the NTSB’s investigations are so one sided that NTSB’s conclusions are entirely inadmissible in any court of law anywhere in the country.
Looks like Icon’s new contract will be as unfair as the one the market rejected back in April. It’s hard to believe that any buyer who has done his homework would sign it.