Irony in LSA market report

Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, is an expert on Light Sport Aircraft.

You just have to marvel how a dynamic new industry unfolds. No matter your level of expertise, no one can foretell the future of the grand experiment we call Light-Sport aviation. So, what’s the irony? After all the years I’ve released the results of Jan Fridrich’s laborious market share assessments using FAA data, one company has finally displaced perpetual #2 producer, American Legend. The star that rose is, of course, Piper, who not quite one year ago announced it would distribute the then-SportCruiser. That model (with its own winding tale) had done respectably well on its own and Piper’s legacy brand brought an impressive growth spurt even during a very weak economy. Yet, even as Piper rose from 6th place last year to dislodge the Legend Cub producer, the Vero Beach outfit ended its relationship with Czech Sport Aircraft. Who could’ve predicted that… in less than one year’s time?

In other noteworthy changes, Cessna has risen to 13th from not being on the chart at the end of 2009. CubCrafters rose from 5th to 4th. Tecnam slipped from 3rd to 5th and Remos from 4th to 6th, both leading producers reflecting the challenges of a troubled economy. However, Aerotrek continued its deliberate but steady rise from 12th to 11th and TL Ultralight distributor SportairUSA rose from 10th to 9th (a technical position as it rose to tie AMD, which changed hands and is now known as Eastman Aircraft). SportairUSA started representing the Zlin model that it rebadged as the iCub.

SplogChart 2010 Market Shares

A related story is Jabiru USA and Arion. The latter has 11 registered SLSA joining a growing fleet of some 80 kits. Though legally organized as two companies, the sibling companies complement one another and, if joined as one, have registered 108 SLSA, enough to allow them to join the exclusive “Century Club” of builders that have exceeded 100 airplanes registered.

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  1. says

    Dan- is there data on who is buying LSAs? The industry needs to research what its core customer base is. If it’s, as I fear, older pilots who are flying without a medical, then there will be a coming collapse as that market will be saturated quickly. If it’s more and more flight schools, that’s encouraging. If it’s younger pilots, that’s even better.


  2. Kent Misegades says

    “Who could’ve predicted that… in less than one year’s time?” When I was present at the big announcement by Piper in Sebring a year ago, I commented to friends that I doubted the arrangement would last very long. Nothing against this fine little plane, its owners, or Piper. But a business relationship that gives exclusive worldwide sales rights with no ownership rights is really odd in business and doomed to failure. Good luck to all parties involved. I suspect that the Piper chapter in the Sport Cruiser’s history will be too short for most to remember in a few years.

    Dan, you list the airplane as a Super Cruiser. All a Piper, but a PA-l2 is a completely different bird, and a fine one at that.

    The bigger news is that the number of FAA-registered LSA aircraft grew 27% from 2008 to 2010, according to FAA accounting. That’s pretty impressive, coming during one of the biggest slumps ever in GA history.

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