NTSB Releases Final Report in Fatal Icon A5 Accident

Investigation points to a simple mistake as the cause for the crash.

Icon A5
The NTSB has released the final report regarding the May Icon A5 accident that claimed the lives of two people.Ian Allen/Icon Aircraft

The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report regarding the Icon A5 accident in May, which claimed the lives of two Icon employees, Jon Karkow and Cagri Sever. The accident took place on the shores of Lake Berryessa, the lake that Icon uses for training flights from its headquarters and training facility at the Nut Tree Airport (VCB) in Vacaville, California.

It appears that Karkow, a highly experienced engineer and pilot who had been working with Icon from its inception, made a wrong turn into a narrow cove from which he was unable to escape. The NTSB report stated that a witness saw the airplane flying slowly at about 30 feet above the water as it entered Little Portuguese Canyon, which is surrounded by terrain several hundred feet tall and gets narrower the farther into it you go.

The witness reported hearing the engine “rev up and accelerate hard,” seeing the airplane start a left turn in an apparent attempt to reverse course out of the cove, and hearing the impact after losing sight of the airplane.

“It is likely that the pilot mistakenly thought the canyon that he entered was a different canyon that led to the larger, open portion of the lake,” the report stated. “Additionally, it is likely that, once the pilot realized there was no exit from the canyon, he attempted to perform a 180-degree left turn to exit in the direction from which he entered.”

With no mechanical flaws found with respect to the airplane and a clean toxicology report for the pilot, the NTSB found that the probable cause of the accident was “the pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s mistaken entry into a canyon surrounded by steep rising terrain while at a low altitude for reasons that could not be determined.”

“Jon and Cagri were both extraordinary individuals and are missed tremendously,” said Icon’s CEO and founder Kirk Hawkins in an Icon press release. “Cagri had recently joined Icon as a star engineering leader from Ford Motor Company. Jon was a legendary aircraft designer, test pilot and unsung hero in aviation. He was a founding member of the Icon team, the lead aero engineer on the A5 and a core part of the Icon’s DNA. The A5 not only reflects his genius, it also represents his love for flying in its purest form – it was his final gift to aviation.”

Icon has dedicated a page of remembrance for Karkow on its website, which can be found here.