Fall brings opportunities and challenges for LSA

AOPA’s Aviation Summit concluded late last month in Hartford, Conn., in what many view as the final aviation event of the season. Yet as winter approaches in the northern states, the southern states will host events every weekend in October.

The LSA Tour series that has seen success in Florida, Georgia, and Colorado will move to Texas at three airports around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. For LSA enthusiasts well west of Texas, the Fifth Annual CT Fly-In will be hosted Oct. 13-16 near Tucson, Ariz. Later in the month two regional shows take place: the well-established Copperstate Fly-In in Arizona (Oct. 20-22) and the newer Southeast Aviation Show Oct. 29 in Greenville, S.C. October generally offers very pleasant weather in the southern tier.

While the show action continues unabated, the LSA community is coping with several challenges. In early September, the FAA shut down one operation that was found in non-compliance as part of a second phase of inspections by the agency. LSA manufacturers need not conform to government certification and instead declare meeting ASTM standards that help assure safe aircraft. This alternative method has produced the greatest flowering of new designs in aviation history…122 new models from 89 manufacturers in just six and a half years (though five companies are no longer producing, leaving 84 active builders).

During a period of sluggish sales common at all levels of aviation, many LSA companies are also concerned about an announcement on the final day of Summit. EAA and AOPA said they will work together to petition the FAA to relax the medical requirement for pilots wishing to fly existing aircraft up to 180 horsepower, with a maximum of two persons on board in day VFR only. Many LSA producers believe that a significant source of their sales are from aviators worried about keeping their medical, so the EAA/AOPA initiative has the potential to further slow sales.

Despite the challenges, the LSA sector is broad and varied, full of large and small producers of an amazing variety of new aircraft. These machines carry much lower prices than other new aircraft, are very fuel efficient (also commonly using, even preferring, auto fuels), and are modern designs with state-of-the-art instrument panels. That they can speed along at 135 mph and generate low noise gives these new machines added appeal. Even with headwinds, the Light-Sport concept contains huge potential, plus a global marketplace as more and more countries accept industry-standards certification.

For more on Sport Pilot and LSAs: ByDanJohnson.com

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