For a few weeks now, we have had reports of customers trying to reach out to Honeycomb Aeronautical regarding their recent purchases or pre-orders of the Charlie Rudder Pedals. Customers were expressing that they were not receiving any communication from the company when asking about order updates.
In a statement issued to FSElite (and now on social media), Honeycomb Aeronautical has explained what has happened and provided context as to why there has been a lack of communication. Nicki Repenning, the founder of Honeycomb Aeronautical, has also provided some clarity on where things are heading next for the business.
The start of his statement gives context as to how and why the company was founded in the first place. Nicki, who worked with Saitek in the US, saw a gap in the market for high-end flight sim equipment at a reasonable price point. By utilising mass-production infrastructure, he felt he could produce quality goods at a price that was more consumer-friendly. In 2012, the business plan was finalised and ready for market, but stated that the idea was too small for venture capital, but too large for an angel investor.
In order to get the business off the ground, Honeycomb partnered with a “longtime friend” who already had gaming hardware in the US market. In the statement, Nicki says: “We agreed that he would be responsible for the financial side of the business, funding the product development and manufacturing as well as using his existing company in Hong Kong as a service provider to work with our manufacturing partners, to transition the AutoCAD files I provided of my industrial and mechanical designs into a product ready for mass production.” In the statement, Nicki does go deeper into the business relationship such as how in return, this partner would get a minority ownership stake in Honeycomb Aeronautical.
According to Nicki, once the company was finally established (after the development of the Alpha controls had already been almost finalised), he found out that the company was under 100% ownership of the corporate umbrella of his business partner. Nicki, was told that this “was a requirement by his finance partners, who had a lean [sic] against his company as security for the loans and wouldn’t provide the funding otherwise.” Once loans were repaid, the shareholder agreement would be finalised, specifying ownership percentages. No agreement was signed by the business partner to this date.
By mid-2022, Nicki says that his business partner was in financial trouble and Honeycomb Aeronautical was in financial trouble, despite having a “record year”. Upon looking into the details, he discovered that the services provided in the factory in Hong Kong were higher than agreed. When Nicki confronted his business partner, he claimed it was an “accounting error”. To help with the financial situation, Honeycomb was convinced to run a limited pre-order run for the Charlie Rudder Pedals. Supposedly, the money raised by this was routed elsewhere and not used for the production of the Charlie Rudder Pedals.
In the statement, Nicki clarified with this: “The situation escalated in July 2023, shortly after we missed the planned shipping date for the pre-orders when the factory partner contacted me directly to inform me that they had still not received payment for the Charlie production or for the several thousand Alpha and Bravo’s they had manufactured and were sitting in their warehouse, which I was completely unaware of existed. Additionally, they had a significant amount of outstanding invoices, including for the injection tooling, required to produce the plastic parts for the Charlie. The extent of the situation caught me completely by surprise.”
Once Honeycomb Aeronautical learned of this, Nicki flew to Hong Kong to fix the issues and negotiate a new deal. The statement reads, “as part of the agreement, I was committing to help the factory recover the outstanding invoices by paying a significant premium on the existing stock as well as on the Charlie production. In exchange, the factory agreed to manufacture the Charlie, despite the outstanding debt, but I had to pay for the injection tooling as well as 50% deposit of the production cost upfront.” Honeycomb Aeronautical confirmed that all parties had no signed the agreement last month.
The statement goes onto say that some staff on the Honeycomb team needed salary payments and that everyone will be fully up to date by next week. This leaves the company with no money to pre-pay for the tooling or deposit to start production of the Charlie Rudder Pedals right now. Honeycomb says, “you can argue that the customer comes first and I should have prioritized the Charlie production but in my book, people come first, they have mouths to feed and rent to pay.”
Moving forward, Honeycomb says that they are working on several finance deals in order to start production on products. Nicki said, “I am determined that all customers receive the product they paid for, regardless of the financial impact to myself.” He continued by saying “I am incredibly sorry to everyone who has been caught in the middle of this and hasn’t received their Charlie order as promised.”
Charlie Rudder Pedals and Refunds Moving Forward
In the lengthy statement, Honeycomb Aeronautical gave a bit more information on how, if still desired, customers can get their Charlie Rudder Pedals in the future. The statement says, “you might get the product faster if you cancel your order and reorder it from one of the official resellers once they have a confirmed that the shipment is on the way.” If, however, you wish to cancel your pre-order, you will need to dispute the charge with your credit card company to get a refund as Shopify, the service used by Honeycomb, will not refund you. However, Honeycomb does advise you call your card company first. If you have already cancelled and not received the refund, you will need to do the same process.
As for why Shopify won’t refund, this was was also explained. As the store was managed by the Honeycomb entity in Hong Kong, and the former business partner, it blocked further refunds and the ability to send out return labels once Shopify did not receive payments for cancellations.
Where is Honeycomb Currently?
Currently, Honeycomb Aeronautical is in talks with several companies to buy out the old business partner. Nicki says that he is “very optimistic that one of them is going to come through.” He continued by saying that the company is a great opportunity in the long run. The goal is to deliver the Charlie Rudder Pedals, replace faulty products and ensure that any creditors are paid. After that, focus can go back onto the future.
As for the lack of communication, Nicki said that he wished he had told everyone sooner. He thought it was a “small bump in the road”, and then concerned it may jeopardize his chances of getting Honeycomb back. Finding a solution has taken longer, but finally felt it was time to be transparent with the community. He admits that a lot of lessons are to be learned moving forward and looks forward to righting the wrongs.
The Flight Sim Academy that Honeycomb Aeronautical announced (the non-profit STEM centers in NA) is still going ahead with 30 high schools. However, new products are going to be put on hold until the new partner is in place. Nicki said that once finances are settled, new launches can happen fairly quickly.
Nicki then spent some of the statement expressing his thanks and gratitude to his team, in particular the tech support and social media teams. He expressed further thanks to customers. He said, “I hope that once I have regained full control of my company and gotten things back on track, I can earn your loyalty and support once again.”
Honeycomb Aeronautical concluded the statement by reiteratting the remorse for poor communication. Whilst they wish they could provide a specific timeline for resolving issues, Nicki doesn’t want to make promises that he cannot keep. Regular updates are promised whilst working through these issues as quickly as possible.
As usual, FSElite will continue to follow the situation and be sure to keep the community updated.