Shaking off the gloom

By DAN JOHNSON

The darkest hours of 2008 were lightened considerably by the rock-solid start to the year witnessed at the 2009 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, in January.

Record crowds, numerous airplane orders, and the sellout of inventory by some exhibitors helped to shake off the gloom of the rotten economy. That the weather was gorgeous didn’t hurt. Evenings were unseasonably cool, but every day of the Expo was sunny and pleasant.

The January 2009 running of Sebring was the fifth event for the Florida air show. Starting in 2004, the event had been scheduled for October. But that time period proved too close to the hurricane season and organizers changed to January, where it’s been for the last three years.

Hosted by the Sebring Airport Authority, which sought to draw attention to the airport and its business possibilities, the Sebring Expo is entirely operated by volunteers. Chairman Bob Wood stated at the LAMA Dinner on opening night that “No one receives a salary.” Those volunteers do it well, as every exhibitor asked indicated they definitely will be returning for the sixth running of Sebring in January 2010.

WHAT’S NEW?
Sebring was a welcome event for all who participated. Companies that stayed home may be wondering if that was the right move. those who couldn’t make the show keep asking me “What was new?”

Here’s my list (for details go online to ByDanJohnson.com):

The well-proven RANS S-6 Coyote debuted as an SLSA; Urban Air’s newly certified Samba complements its lovely Lambsportstarada; FPNA’s amphibious Cape Town appeared on brand-new floats; Paradise delivered its first hand-control P-1; Remos debuted its GX 2009 with new gear and a redesigned interior; a year after its debut at Sebring ’08 CTLS displayed the first-ever Garmin 696 installation, while the avionics company announced its GDU 370 and 375 MFDs; Evektor showed its SportStar SL (pictured) with a recontoured exterior; Tony and Adriel Anderson showed their Fk9 on new Baumann amphib floats; they’re teaming up for sales with Hansen Air Group, which also showed a production version of its new FA-04 Peregrine; Zenith Aircraft demo flew the STOL CH-750, an upgrade from the popular 701; Cessna identified notable changes in the final SkyCatcher design (a larger tail) and confirmed first deliveries in ’09; and, the K-10 Swift from Ukraine-based Skyeton made its worldwide debut – and made a sale. In all, a great Sebring!

Following on Sebring’s success – and enjoying advice from Sebring’s organizers – are two more LSA shows: The HOT (Heart of Texas) LSA Show is slated for March in Bryan, Texas, and the Midwest LSA Show will follow in October in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

TWO LSA JOIN LIST
At the show, I was pleased to find two new all-American aircraft to add to our SLSA list, now 91 models long.

Welcome to M-Squared’s Breese 2 and RANS’s S-6 Coyote.
The Breese won approval last summer and has been overlooked by the media…a mistake as the Alabama manufacturer offers the fully built two seater for just $34,995.

The Coyote is one of America’s top-selling kit-built planes (approaching 2,000 flying) and it, too, is now available ready-to-fly. The S-6 is RANS’s third approval under SLSA rules, joining the S-7 Courier and S-19LS.

THE NUMBERS ARE IN
Agreement is widespread that 2008 was hard on almost everybody. The new year may bring continued turbulence, but a feeling that things are starting to change is prevalent, based on my conversationsplogcharts with LSA professionals across the country.

We hope for a better 2009 and a much-improved 2010, nonetheless, the LSA fleet continued to expand in 2008, with a net increase of 36% (though growth slowed sharply from the 98% pace achieved in 2007 – as the fleet gets bigger, it becomes harder to maintain the high percentage growth). Positions #1 (Flight Design, with 284 aircraft) and #2 (American Legend Aircraft Co., with 144) stayed steady, but lower down, several market shares changed (see chart).

For more on Sport Pilot, go to ByDanJohnson.com.

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