FAA forecasts robust LSA growth…for a while

The FAA issued a 20-year forecast for aviation to 2030. According the the agency, Light Sport Aircraft sales will grow by 825 per year through 2013 and then taper off to 335 per year.

Hmmm? One wonders why it should fall so dramatically and so soon?

Except in a lousy 2009, the LSA industry has generously exceeded 335 units per year — and this while the industry also had to build its entire infrastructure: A system of certification, distribution channels, service centers, parts inventory, trained flight instructors, and much more.

The LSA industry’s best year was 2007 at 565 airplanes. Last year, the figure was only 234. In 2006, 491 were registered and 2008 added 406…all numbers relate to new SLSA fixed wing airplanes; add 15-20% for other LSA categories like weight-shift, powered parachute, and glider.

Given Cessna’s 1,000+ SkyCatcher backlog, perhaps they’ll build 200-400 per year in 2011, ’12, and ’13. If the rest of the industry returns to 400-600 per year — approximately the track record so far — total production would be 600-1,000 SLSA per year. So, FAA’s figures appear in the ballpark… for the next three years.

But then, what does the agency see happening to cause the industry to slide 60% to just over 300 per year? Perhaps it’s because FAA assumes a net growth of just 6,099 general aviation airplanes over 20 years, or 305 per year. Yet GA manufacturers logged 2,119 single engine general aviation deliveries in 2008 and 965 even in the awful 2009, which is significantly more than FAA’s forecast 300 per year rate. It appears FAA envisions only modest growth for either GA or LSA in the next 20 years. Time will tell.

For more on Sport Pilot and LSA: ByDanJohnson.com


  1. says

    Hi to all…

    I am the author of the report that appears to be quite stimulating. Any writer likes to see the give and take his or her writing generates. I’ll only add a few comments below.

    1– COST *** Some LSA are much less costly than widely advertised brands. You can get a brand-new, ready-to-fly airplane in the $35,000 to $65,000 range and the higher end is a fully enclosed, nice performing aircraft. In addition, we’re starting to see more used LSA on the market, and, just like decades-old GA planes, they’re cheaper than new.

    2– FUEL BURN *** The fuel burn in the several C-172s I’ve flown was closer to 10 GPH at customary throttle/mixture settings, where most LSA, even at high throttle settings, burn 5 GPH. At $4-5/gallon (or $20-25 per hour) that difference will add up significantly over a decade of regular flying. One more thing: many LSA can fly as fast or faster than many older GA aircraft that burn twice the fuel, AND they often make much less noise doing so.

    3– PAYLOAD *** Yes, the payload of a four-seat GA plane may be greater than a 2-seat LSA, but not by much and not always. Most folks know a C-172 cannot carry four normally-sized people and full fuel. Yes, if you want to carry 500 pounds of occupants and full fuel, your choices are more limited. But, on average, most LSA carry very useful payloads. And as a percentage of total weight, the contest is over; LSA win.

    4– CESSNA *** The sales numbers and profits therefrom did not drive Cessna’s decision for a new design. Instead, a major reason was the dwindling number of student starts and the big company’s desire to change that. That’s too simplistic an answer for their action, of course, but the SkyCatcher should help bring in more new students… or so we all hope.

    I appreciate the readership of all who saw my article and especially to those who responded.

    Dan Johnson

  2. John Mininger says

    It’s hard to believe that Cessna came up with a clean sheet LSA with those kinds of sales numbers in mind.
    I’d love to see Cessna’s sales projections.

  3. Steve C. says

    LSA’s are good for smaller light-weight people. Most men today weigh more than 160 pounds. My son and I are in the 250 lbs. range so achieving legal payload would be difficult in most models, shy of leaving fuel on the ground. Give me a solid used Piper Archer, or Arrow III or IV and we would be better off for business and pleasure.
    Anybody know which LSA models offer the highest PAYLOAD? Thanks.

  4. Chris C says

    Uhhhh, it is affordable compared to a new 4 place certified plane. Apples to apples my friend. LSA’s are about 1/2 the cost for the CHEAPEST new planes, but with 1/2 the payload and other restrictions. And something a little older is at least 1/2 of a new LSA.

    Find a flight club in the area. I fly a 172 that is 32 yo and spend about $2500/year for 30 hours including monthly dues. And if I upgrade to the same vintage 182 with a Garmin 530 it would be $3600/year. Some day a $500,000 fast Mooney or something like that with a glass cockpit but for now the 172 does me fine.

  5. Brian Carpenter says

    Sorry James,

    No one ever said that everyone could afford a Light Sport Airplane. I purchased one only after I retired at age 60..Powered parachutes , trikes are much cheaper and will get you in the air..Maybe you can afford to get some instruction and get a license..So in answer to you question…. Save your money, work long and hard and maybe some day you can get a LSA of your very own… Good luck…..

  6. Dale P says

    Hi James.When the SLSA was talked abput most people like me, thought the price would fall in the mid $50,000’s or so. That did not happen. I bought mine used and still paid in the late 70,000s. I suggest you get your private and buy a nice used Cessna 152 for around $20,000. That could get you in the air. Dale

  7. Tom Schuyler says

    You can buy a used, certificated 4 place airplane like a Skyhawk or a Cherokee for $25K – $50K. It will burn 3 GPH more than a LSA, but you can fly a LOT of hours for the $100K you save on the purchase price, and some of those hours can be at night or in IFR conditions.

  8. James Janota says

    You know as much as I am fascinated and would love to buy one, the purchase of a new LSA is not a cheap one. I often tried to figure out how I could afford to buy one. They advertise the feel that everyone can afford it. I looked at all the possibilities of finance including fractional ownership and found no way of coming up with even the down payment, much less paying the whole thing off. Most of the new LSAs out there are about as expensive as an old 600 square foot house here in FL. So how can they advertise truthfully that it’s more affordable? Not unless they are thinking everyone makes 6 figures. I only make 25k a year, so there is little hope of owning a new LSA, unless My wife, the kids, and I live in a tent and live off rice and beans, and give up utilities. As for me I’d like to know how anyone gets the money up to purchase an LSA. You can publish my e-mail so that someone can tell me how. j.janota@verizon.net

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