What’s going on at the top?

What do the following LSA have in common? Skycatcher, Paradise P1, Remos GX, SeaRey, and PiperSport. The answer: All the companies supplying these LSA have gone through major management changes in 2011.

The most widely reported departure was that of Jack Pelton, who held the titles of president, CEO, and chairman at Cessna. Along with him went other notables like Tom Aniello and John Doman; the latter was VP of piston sales for years, he’s at Flight Design now. So besides Cessna’s very deep cuts to employment (previous reports have said that more than 50% of workers were laid off), now top management has also changed. One wonders what this could mean for the single engine end of Cessna’s line.

The Wichita giant hasn’t been alone in these gut-wrenching changes. In very recent days, Remos has gone through another major change at the top. Gone are the CEO, COO, and CFO. Theo Paeffgen, a lawyer associated with the company, has taken the reins. The U.S. staff appeared to have received little advance notice of this change.

As 2011 began, Piper announced it would cease distributing the SportCruiser (renamed PiperSport for its one-year run) and this decision occurred about the time former Piper CEO Kevin Gould left, with management taken over by Jeff Berger, who is associated with the financial company, Imprimis, that bought the storied Vero Beach manufacturer in 2009.

At Sun ‘n Fun, I had meetings with various people associated with the Paradise P1 following a change to its U.S. distributor. However, in the brief two months since Sun ‘n Fun ended, a different American rep based in Orlando has taken over.

SeaRey producer Progressive Aerodyne has new management as that seaplane developer morphs from a kit company to a fully-built manufacturer. SeaRey will continue with kits; the goal is to add an SLSA model.

Is this simply the “shakeout” some have been predicting for the LSA industry? The companies appear to be surviving; it’s their leadership that appears in a state of flux.

The good news is that the industry still has well-managed businesses and they are persevering through this most challenging of economies. In an industry cut whole from new cloth, changes are necessary to see the promise of this innovative way to certify and service airplanes. The best news? The global acceptance of the LSA concept continues… I’ll have more on this soon! Certainly, these are exciting times for light aviation.

For more on Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft: ByDanJohnson.com

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