Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, is an expert on Light Sport Aircraft.
How many is too many? As the Light-Sport Aircraft industry has now reached 114 FAA approved models, some have started to say, “Enough!”
True, a small number have already left the roster, but even those may not be permanent losses because a new importer can pick up where a failed business stumbled and even a bankrupt manufacturer can be bought by someone else, or their workers form a new company and make a similar model.
We are much less used to this scrappy type of entrepreneurship in the general aviation industry. A high level of regulations present a high barrier to entry…for airframe manufacturers, for Part 141 schools, and for FAA repair stations.
Still, not all current LSA players will survive into the distant future. My own expectation is that most of the current biggest companies — the top dozen or so — will continue to log the most sales. And I also believe many of the smaller, so-called niche players that have developed a following will survive, albeit with smaller sales volumes than the big guys. Pilots who love seaplanes, motorgliders, weight-shift trikes, and powered parachutes are likely to continue buying those flying machine alternatives. Those at greatest jeopardy may be the “me-too” companies building something familiar but who hope to sell in larger quantities. A classic squeeze play might make business difficult for some of them, just as in countless industries before.
As part of its self-governing mandate, the industry is gearing up to support even brands which may disappear — the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association is at work now on its LAMAsafety.org website (still in development), a resource that intends to maintain service records and more for all brands. This is no panacea, but if you like an LSA and have researched it and the company behind it, you may be at no more risk of continued operation than in other segments of aviation. Just think of the Eclipse very light jet. The company succumbed but an owner group picked up the service.
So, how many is too many? The riddle has no answer unless you’d like to have your choices limited. I say that if a new company wants to offer you a neat, new flying machine, you should do your homework of checking it out, but having done so, enjoy the wide number of choices the LSA industry can provide.
After all, who has a crystal ball to know the next one isn’t going to be a big success story? Me? I like choices…lots of them, and the LSA industry has something for nearly everyone.
For more on LSA: ByDanJohnson.com